Wednesday, February 04, 2009

saggy middles, revelations and a proud mummy moment

Current work: Modern Heat
Listening to: Grieg, piano concerto in A minor
Reading: Claire Thornton, My Lord Footman (am enjoying this – haven’t read a historical romance in a French Revolution setting before – and as I was researching Charlotte Atkyns and Thomas Paine for the nonfic I delivered last week, it’s quite pertinent for me)

Even though I’m a planner and know exactly where I’m going with a book before I start it, my characters still have the capacity to surprise me and suddenly reveal something.

I was fretting a bit (all right, a lot) over my saggy middle yesterday. (The one in the book. I’m working on the personal one. Rather, I will be after February 15, because I have a week of partying coming up.) Saggy middle syndrome is something I struggle with on every single book. I know how to deal with it: I need to ratchet up the emotional tension between the hero and heroine and cut for pace. And that usually involves stomping round the house, muttering to myself and asking questions. (I find that ‘why’ and ‘how’ are the most helpful ones, for this particular problem.) The other thing that usually causes saggy middle syndrome is if I haven’t worked out the characters’ motivations.

Except in this case it wasn’t my characters’ motivations that threw a spanner into the works. It was the secondary characters (who are the root of the heroine’s conflict). I hadn’t worked out why they’d behaved as they did. And when I did, it made the end of the book much clearer – and I think stronger, too.

And that particular moment – when the ‘I’m rubbish and I can’t write for toffee’ feeling is replaced by ‘hmm, this might actually work’ – is one of the sweetest moments in the world. (I think it might be called relief.)

However, doubts have their uses. I was talking to a friend about it yesterday and she crystallised it for me: doubts are what keep us going and make sure our standards stay high – because we want to write the best story we can and delight our readers rather than disappoint them.

And the proud moment? Littlest got another commendation at school yesterday, meaning that she’s the second Year Three in the school (out of 75-ish) to have achieved her bronze award. And for which subject did she get said commendation? Creative writing. Hmm...


Jan Jones said...

Phew! Well done, Kate.

And extra well done to littlie, too.

Nicolette said...

Congratulations to your littlie, Kate!

Shirley Wells said...

Aw, well done to Littlest. Another writer in the family?

Glad you sorted out the saggy middle. It's the stuff of nightmares, isn't it?