Today I finished plotting my next novel. I had started it a few years ago and gotten it about 3/4 of the way written before I decided that my earlier manuscripts needed a lot of work, and that while I COULD keep cranking out new and deeply flawed stories, it might be better to get some of them into respectable shape. I set this one aside and went back to "fix" the older ones, but this one--which, in my head, I call "Sin Wagon"--has been in the back of my mind the whole time.
So now it's plotted out on neat little index cards, one chapter per card, two scenes per chapter.
I didn't used to do this, this careful planning and plotting and making use of index cards; I just sat down and wrote what I was thinking, sometimes longhand and sometimes by typing. The change in method wasn't due to any big philosophical shift in my mind. I just learned new stuff about length and form and expectations for romance novels. Some other time maybe I'll write about the massive number of things I had to learn, and where/how I learned some of them.
But anyway, as I learned more, I realized I needed a better way of keeping track of all the things I was doing in my stories, so that they had a prayer of ending up looking and sounding like what people in the publishing world think they should. The index card method is my way of keeping track. Tomorrow after reading through the cards, I'll attach them to my story board, which is divided into 4 sections, each making up a quarter of the story. Then, when I start rewriting, I can either work straight through from beginning to end or, if I get stuck and bogged down and don't feel like writing the next chapter in line, I can pluck a card containing a scene I DO feel like working on and write that. Eventually they'll all get done. Progress is progress.
The other thing I've been doing lately, besides plotting my own next story, is reading lots of other good books. I enjoy mysteries, domestic and legal thrillers, speculative fiction, social science non-fiction, current events ... There's always way more interesting stuff than I can read, and thank heavens for that.
My own genre is no exception. I'm thrilled whenever I find a new romance author whose writing I love, especially if I then learn that they have many more books out for me to work my way through. My newest author "discovery"--though I feel like I was really late to the party on this one--is Emily Henry. I just finished and loved my first of hers ("People You Meet on Vacation") and am on the wait-list at my library for 2 more. Those are all contemporary romances, which is my sub-genre too.
I also love reading historical romance, and I've just finished rereading Grace Burrowes's "The Laird" and immediately checked out the other 2 in that series. Ms. Burrowes is a go-to author for me; I've read at least 20 of her books and found them all beautifully written with male characters who are thoughtful and well-meaning even when they're flat out wrong about something. I guess this is why I enjoy rereading hers.
Finally, I got my hands on a copy of Kwana Jackson's "Real Men Knit," which I need to read really fast before her new book comes out this week! So I'm looking forward to a busy productive week.
I wish you the same.
Laura Moher, navigating this new world of writing and publishing her stories.