First Love and the First Pages

Source: www.fromoldbooks.com
Source: www.fromoldbooks.com

Since I write romance, guess it’s not much surprise that I have love on the brain. But I was thinking today, especially as I look back at an older work, about the flush of first love we feel in the early pages of a new book.

I’m in love with my new story. Probably partially because I’m only about 12k in. It’s usually like that.

The first 20k are marvelous. First there’s the charming and those early “dates” between the writer, the freshness of the ideas, the characters, the rosy possibility of unexplored words. Ah! What a marvelous character who’s eager to tell you everything. Oh! The mighty possibilities of where the story might go, where it will take the writer before it ever has a chance to transport a reader.

By about 30k, you’ve started to settle into a steady routine of dates. The writer and the story are getting to know each other. And yes, they may still be in love, but, well, things aren’t perfect. Who is? There’s those plot holes back in chapter 5, and the revision notes written before the book is even complete. But, hey, it’s still fun. It’s still good.

By midway and around the 50k mark, things have settled into a bit of a rut. Is this the one? Or was it just a clever trickster out to seduce and leave you, like a horrible one-night stand? Does the writer have any talent? Does the story have any worth? The story might hit the rocks here, along with the relationship between writer and story, and “I hate you” might be slung around ruthlessly. Around about this mark, as the rut starts to wear on both story and writer is usually when a bright sexy young story spark comes to mind, seductive and tempting as this story once was, before that paunch around the middle. But, if you’ve made it this far, stuck together so long, there must be something worthwhile, and besides, the promise of ’til “the end” do we part is still a promise worth keeping.

The 80k mark. Yes, everything up to this point may suck, probably does. But that’s okay. You’ve reached 80k! You’re almost there. And suddenly … wait! What is that … just ahead … it’s the glimmer of light at the end, and you’re going to make it, and everything will get better, and the story is worth it, and maybe this will turn into the best thing you’ve ever written! And yes, for me, it’s a swift sprint to the end (100K) as I see where everything is coming together, and how it’s all worked out for the best. The story is a glorious, beautiful thing, warts and all. Because, hey, rewrites are to get rid of those warts, right?

Ah, the first draft is done. And you’ve accomplished something … until you open up those first pages, and good gracious! What the heck is that? Okay, so it’s uglier than you thought, but this baby is worth the effort of getting the rewrites done. The first 20k are especially awful, but they can be fixed. And then comes the next draft. And possibly another one after that. Then a good spit and polish, and voila! Done. It is a beautiful thing. And yet, it is also somehow apart from the writer, the sheer madness of the push to finish each draft like a distant memory. Because when it’s done, when the story and the writer have completed their journey, their time together is over.

It’s time to give the story the boot. Because what is that just around the corner? Hello, it’s that seductive new story, just waiting for the writer to lay hands to the keyboard … and start the whole cycle of madness all over again.

I’ve just his 12k on new baby story. Oh, but ain’t love grand? Surely I’ve never written anything better. 😉 (Just don’t ask me in another 20k or so.)

What about you? Ever had a very unusual “relationship” with something so ephemeral as a story?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. 🙂

Strange But Fun Research Books

I’m taking a break from the Regency for this week and instead showing off some of my favorite weird-ass books that I have on my shelves for research. You know the kind: they’re kind of unexpected, they’re not exactly the kind of book you use as everyday reference, they can become an enormous time-suck, but boy are they fun to poke around in. Yep, some of those. 🙂

weaponsbookThe Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons. Eds. Leonid Tarassuk & Claude Blair.

This dear book has been a long and dutiful friend, ever handy when I’m feeling rather blood-thirsty. It’s an old guy that I picked up at a library book sale, but it’s a great reference for actually looking up weapons … or if you just want to compare different suits of armor, or maybe look for a neat-looking dagger your heroine might use. Or you know, play. 🙂

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Dungeon Master Guide: Arms and Equipment Guide.

I confess that I haven’t used this book as often as I might, but when a friend’s hubby said he was giving away books, well, first, who says no to a free book? and second, this one looked handy when it came to describing things I wasn’t familiar with. There are lots of pictures and descriptions of those pictures so you can understand what different weapons are, different costumes, etc. Again, a fair bit of fun to thumb through.

bodylangThe Definitive Book of Body Language. By Allan and Barbara Pease.

This was purchased in relation to writing, and because it was really interesting when I read through it somewhat randomly the first time (have no idea why I picked it up). As well as being handy for understanding body language so you can write about it, try reading it and then go out for dinner with friends, or especially with people you don’t know very well. It’s great fun all dinner long to read what their body language is saying, so much more interesting than the conversation. 🙂

You Can Read Anyone: Never Be Fooled, Lied To, or Taken Advantage of Again. By David J. Lieberman.

Yep, I got hooked on body language books, which is why I followed up the Peases’ book with this one. Also interesting, it delves into a bit more detail, and is especially used for kind of criminal profiling – though it also goes into why a read can be flawed on the basis of nervousness, etc. I, for example, swear I look like the most guilty person in the airport, because though I’m not doing anything wrong, I’m terrified I’ll be caught doing something and miss my flight.

bookromeTraveller’s Guide to the Ancient World: Rome in the Year AD 300. By Ray Laurence.

This was a bargain pick-up, and because someday, I swear I’m going to write a book with Ancient Rome in it. This one is a lot of fun because it’s formatted just like a modern travel book, which makes is super easy to find all kinds of information you’d be hard pressed to otherwise. I haven’t read – or double-checked – the sources and authenticity since I haven’t had to, but if you want it for actual reference, that would probably be a good idea. I’m not entirely certain how factual it is, but it is fun.

A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits. By Carol K. Mack and Dinah Mack.

I did mention these were weird and rather random books, right? This is an interesting book in how it’s written – as though you’re actually out encountering or hunting down demons. A bit strange, but definitely interesting for the perspective.

Planet Cat: A cat-alog. By Sandra Choron, Harry Choron, and Arden Moore.planetcat

I like cats, which is where this book originates. But I found, to my surprise, that it’s also a great source for weird cat-trivia which could come in handy if you happen to have a feline character. There’s tons of myth, famous cats, history, cat in context to said history, that sort of thing. No, you probably aren’t going to find a use for most (all?) of the info in here, but more fun than you’d probably expect.

birthdayencycThe Element Encyclopedia of Birthdays: know your birthday, discover your true personality, reveal your destiny. By Theresa Cheung.

Ah, and at last we end on my favorite weird-ass book. It grabbed the attention of my husband and I in the bookstore, and despite it’s price tag, it came home with us. It’s also often flipped through by friends when they see it, and I confess to looking up most of my friends and family to see what it has to say. (Oh, and characters for books too – though again, less research, more play.)

So what the heck is it, you ask? It’s an encyclopedia of birthdays, breaking it down by zodiac, numerology and other systems, so you can look at general “sign” information, as well as just look up your birthday and read an assessment of your personality. For example, if your birthday were today, July 26, you’d find (p297):

“this is the birthday of self-assurance.

“People born on July 26 tend to be charming and strong individuals with an almost unshakable belief in themselves. … Other people tend to listen when these dominant personalities speak because they have an air about them which others respect and admire. … From the age of twenty-seven, they have an increasing desire for more practical order, efficiency, and analysis in their lives. In the years that follow, it is important for their pscyhological growth that they don’t become over-confident …”

“On the dark-side: over-confident, tactless, uncompromising.”

“At your best: honest, authoritative, confident.”

Neat, huh? Trust me, lots of time can vanish just playing with this book.

So, what are your favorite weird-ass books – whether they live in your home or not? Why do they make your list? What makes them special?

Thanks for reading, and speaking of vanishing time, I better get back to work. 🙂 Hope you have a great week, and hey, if you liked this post, why not follow the blog? Have a good one. 🙂