12 November 2012

Old School and New School—Romantic Set-ups

A funny thing happened to me on the way to publishing my third book.

My editor rejected it. Soundly, I might add. And tears, I’ll add those too. I just figured that once I’d sold two books I was golden. Editors supposed to love everything their authors write, right?
Um, not necessarily.

The main reason my editor rejected the manuscript was that it didn’t follow a typical old school set-up. The characters actually liked each other the moment they met. Not love, but like. This was no good.  Who knew? Well, my editor, but not me.

I didn’t understand that since the dawning of time, readers have adored the old school romantic trope of “enemies to lovers”, or “strangers to lovers”. Those storylines are still going strong because the conflict and tension between the characters is palpable. Conflict keeps us turning pages. The desire to resolve the conflict in a satisfying loving way is why most of us read romance.

After pouting for a bit, I realized I needed to increase the conflict. I began the arduous task by throwing out the first third of the book and starting over from scratch. I made things tougher for my characters. They don’t hate each other but they do have competing objectives—real, noble, life or death goals. If one wins, the other loses and people could die unless they find a way to work together.

After tossing out the first third, I tossed the middle third and completely rewrote the final third. You don’t need to be a mathematician to see that I rewrote the whole darned enchilada. But it’s okay because I love it! This story is much deeper, more complex, more emotional, more…everything. Breath-stealing conflict was the key. Characters we love to root for is another other key. Heart-stopping plot is the third. Well, there are lots of keys.

I am still tinkering, but I am tickled to say that this manuscript is a finalist in four writing contests. I am excited beyond words to see what the final judges decide.

Apparently my editor, like my Mom, is always right.

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