I have six books published now, plus the short story, Meet Olive on GoodReads. The hardest thing I’ve ever written? Never Ready, hands down. You’d think it would be Chrysanthemum, because that was technically the first novel I wrote, and the longest. Actually, no, A’gust was the longest, and still is (working on that.) Or AKA Lexi Frost because it was the first with an erotic scene. No, those all just flowed. No problem.
I haven’t really struggled with any in the Lexi Frost series. I’ve hardly struggled with the three I’ve completed in the Death of Secrets series, other than sheer length, or the fourth that I’ve got half done (working on that too.)
The genies? Be Careful What You Wish For wasn’t difficult to write, although it was a pain to revise. It took a long time to get Viv’s character where I wanted her. Olive was remarkably easy, I mean for being such a troublemaker. The next book, Make A Wish! seems to be fine (half done with the edits, yes, working on that). Hmm. Before Never Ready, I would have said revising Be Careful What You Wish For was the hardest book I’ve done.
Writing Rerun, which next to none of you have had the chance to peek at, wasn’t this hard. It was different. Killing, a lot of killing. Darkness, but hey, it’s a thriller not a romance. But it wasn’t difficult. Okay, sure, I cried because, you know, killing, a lot of killing. Bloody doesn’t equate to hard.
No, it wasn’t until I ended the Lexi Frost series and started the Thousand Words series that trouble started. Wrapping it all up in one nice, neat package. I should have left it messy, it would have been easier. I wrote Transitions. But what about Never Ready? Didn’t I just say that was the hardest book I’d written? I’ll get there.
First: Transitions crossed marketing strategies. It started as Contemporary Romance and ended as New Adult Romance. Those assignments (as well as YA and MG) are based on the age of the main character. Well, there’s the other problem: It was kind of two books in one – choose your main character. Based on the number of scenes/focus, the main character was Dev, so I decided to make this the first book in the Thousand Words series, not the last in the Lexi Frost series and focus more on the New Adult side of marketing. And to make matters slightly more complicated, he’s seventeen when the book starts – in the Young Adult age group (not that I would in a million years classify this as Young Adult!) – but he went off to college midway through the book and was firmly twenty by the time it ended (Whew! safely New Adult).
Also, as mentioned before, it’s a ‘choose your character’ book. In romance, you typically follow only one romantic couple in a book, but I clearly had two: Teri and Flynn, and Dev and Lindsay. I start with one and over the course of the novel transferred attention to the other. It’s also traditional not to have intimate interaction until you get about 80 pages in. I didn’t necessarily break that tradition, it just seemed that way at first. No real problem there. And you don’t have intimate relations between anyone but the romantic couple, but as I said, I had two, meaning I had more than one intimate encounter between different couples. That’s kind of a no-no.
The big headache was how to let readers know what the hell I’d done with this book. It’s really two stories written together, and a progression of events. Some books are character-driven, meaning readers follow along because they identify with a character and need to see what happens to them (most Disney movies are like this or chic-flicks). Some books are story/plot-driven and the readers follow along because they have to know what happens (think Lord of the Rings, or any action-movie). Good books tend to be a mix between the two. Writers want the readers to be invested in the main characters, but also interested in the story as a whole because then cliffhangers work. We’re kind of evil that way. Sorry. This was meant to be story or plot driven and I just assumed readers would like the characters and follow along as I wanted them to. That’s not the way it usually works.
So I have this book, it’s appropriate novel-length with two couples, two love stories, but the events are so intertwined trying to pull it apart into two books just seems like a poor idea. And while I’m starting a new series for new readers of a (probably) different age group, I’m trying not to either overwhelm them with backstory or lose them entirely because they have no idea what happened in the Lexi Frost series. Meanwhile, those who read the Lexi Frost series may or may not be game for what mischief her troublemaker of a son is up to.
The whole time I was writing this book, I knew what I was going to do (plot-wise, and I won’t give spoilers) and that had me on edge. I knew it was going to be hard marketing-wise, and I couldn’t see a way around it. It was like I had a cloud over my head the whole time. Not even chocolate helped, although Hubby made a valiant effort and kept me supplied.
Even when I finished, it wasn’t really over. Revisions were like reliving the drama of writing it. And then I lost my editor. My second editor. So I gave it to the most anal of my beta readers and said ‘go for it.’ Then I washed my hands of it because I’d had enough. When it came back from formatting, and it was all perfect, I made one small change – and suddenly nothing was perfect anymore. So I got to spend all day fixing everything.
With a dramatic sigh, I stuck Transitions on Amazon – for 24 hours before an alpha reader decided to pipe up a concern that I really did need to separate the story lines. She made a good argument, and I pulled the book. There are five copies of Transitions out there. Sigh again and reach for a bottle of something mildly alcoholic. Hubby handed me Irish Cream, and thus Never Ready was born. As if writing and revising Transitions wasn’t hard enough, Never Ready was pure torture.
I figured out where the book would be divided and reassigned scenes as needed. Neither book was very long now, nor were they full stories anymore. I was already resigned to ending the Lexi Frost Series, and it was incredibly difficult to become reinvested to go back and fill in the blanks in Never Ready. I’d sown the seeds of trouble that wouldn’t sprout until the next series as it turns out.
It was also hard to go back into Transitions and finish it a second time. To be honest, I’ve written the two books following Transitions, and I went and stole scenes from the second book in the series to put in Transitions, so that made finishing that book a little easier. Although I moved a whole plot complication up by half a book and now I have to go fix the sequel. Then I had to fix Transitions to actually introduce all the characters. In Never Ready, it’s assumed you know the players, but I can’t do that for Transitions, it’s the start of a new series. Done.
Except Never Ready still leaves you with Dev and Lindsay on your mind, so I didn’t really accomplish all that much by pulling the book apart after all. The troublemaker alpha reader sort of disagrees. Never Ready focuses more on Teri and Flynn (true). Dev and Lindsay are a big part of it, but their story doesn’t really get underway until Transitions, so I can justify that book as New Adult Romance and Never Ready as Contemporary Romance. I at least solved the marketing problem. Knowing what genre your book is can be a big relief and that alone was worth the tears, frustration, and headaches. And the two pounds I gained from the chocolate. I actually put the chocolate in the acknowledgment for Never Ready. I’m serious.
Great, so I gained a specific genre, but did I solidify the story? It’s still the finale and transitional novel that I originally wrote so I’m concerned. My alpha readers think so, but they may be biased by this point. My actual readers are not given to reviews, although some do send me messages directly from my website. (I think that’s great.) Time will tell.