Saturday, October 07, 2006

Reinventing the wheel

Well, the rest of 2003 and most of 2004 passed in something of a blur, and without a whole lot of writing. The thyroid trouble made a mockery of writing in the evening, after the dayjob, and most of the weekends were spent napping. Bearing this in mind, I may have some of my dates, and maybe some of my sequencing wrong below - unintentionally, k?!

Eventually I got to have radio-iodine treatment to bring the thyroid under control and it worked. Almost miraculously. To date, my throid is behaving perfectly, and I don't have to take any meds, which is almost unheard of after radioactive treatment.

According to my files, though, I entered the Romance Junkies contest in April 2004. It was an impulse decision, and mostly for fun, which is ironic, because that decision was about to become very, very big deal.

Another impulse decision was to query ten mainstream pubs in the US. I got, I think, 8 rejections and two no responses. C'est la vie.

By the end of the RJ contest, without performing remarkably well votes wise, I had two requests for fulls from two RWA-recognised publishers.

And I had a really... well, a really crappy MS.

I started rewriting with my sights on mainstream. I studied what makes a 'big' book. I re-read all my editorial comments on the original version. I re-read the MS, occasionally wincing, and occasionally going, "wow". Then I started cutting.

After that, I turned a secondary's bit part into a sub-plot, echoing and contrasting the key points of the main plot. I upped the stakes, and built the action. I decided the ending was a flop and rewrote it completely. I realised that two of my key strengths were bringing settings and locations to life, and writing action that leaves your palms damp, and used those strengths to reinforce the most important parts of the story.

I promised myself I'd never, ever, ever write a) generic settings or b) marriage of convenience for no good reason ever again.

The ending rewrite went well. I liked it.

I entered the GH. I got some damn fine marks, but didn't final.

Shortly afterward, I realised that a strong start and a strong finish made the middle... meh. I think I may have cried at this stage, but by then I was feeling better and had momentum. I reworke the middle, and finally I had something I could feel comfortable sending out. About a year after the request.

I tell you, I have an incomplete article on writing for publication called, "How Not To Do It, the unpubs' guide to staying that way". Of course, now I'm very nearly published, but still, if there was something I could do wrong, I'd do it wrong...

It was a new book, but not a new book. It was the same wheel... reinvented.

And I was going to have to hang around while it kept on turnin' for a good few months yet. *g*

Excerpt from that ending that pleased me, and completely unbalanced the middle...

A shot sounded behind her, inside the house. She sobbed. For a moment it was like running in treacle, like a nightmare, but she fought through it, every second expecting a bullet in the back, every breath believing Kier had already taken one.

Don’t split my attention. I have a plan.

She cried. But there was no breath for sobbing, no time for blurred sight. So the crying was only in the way her face twisted, in the way she ached, because she wouldn’t let it be any other way.

The haggard blackthorn that edged the lane danced and creaked in the rising wind, looming over her, and blocking out the fading sun. She stumbled, her foot twisting on a smooth, loose stone, and a hand grabbed her arm.

She spun, a harsh cry tearing up her throat. But it was Kier, it was Kier apparently whole, and urging her on, forcing her to run.

God. “Where—“ she gasped

“Incapacitated. Temporarily,” he said, and didn’t slow.

What? Why? She had time to think, why not dead? and time to be wholeheartedly, passionately glad Kier hadn’t killed him.

The lane spilled onto the shore, a jumble of stone and mud, mixing with the sand, stirred by the wind. Which hit them, full force, coming straight off the sea, and carrying half a mile’s worth of grit and sand. It stung her skin, burned it, blinding her. It filled her mouth and she skidded to a halt, choking.

Kier caught her, his hands on her shoulders, turning her to face him. Swiftly he unzipped his jacket and pulled his shirt out of his trousers. Two sharp moves ripped the shirt tail off, and then he was wrapping it around her mouth and nose, tying it behind her head, catching curls painfully in his haste.

“I’m sorry,” he raised his voice over the hissing of the sand-laden wind. “I can’t give you my jacket, it’s too much of a target.”

Confusion cleared, then – fast - washed out in a rush of terror, dread and anger.
Rage won out, though. She shook with it, it pumped in her blood till hear ears roared with it. How dare they... how dare they hunt her like this? How dare they threaten Kier? But there was rage at Kier, too, mired in that heart-thumping mix.

It’s too much of a target.

Don’t you die, Kier. Don’t you dare.

He tugged on her hand, urging her on, and they broke into a run again. She stumbled on the smooth, black rocks that dotted the white sand, searching through narrowed, sand-blinded eyes for the smooth, darker patches of sand that were harder, and easier to run on.

Setting a hard pace, Kier dropped her hand, leading them round the high-water mark. To their right, the dunes loomed higher, shimmering grey-green in the wind. Risking a glance back, she saw a figure emerge from the shelter of the lane. Armed.

“Kier!” she shrieked, but he’d already seen him.

“Don’t be afraid,” he yelled. “He can’t hit us at this distance, in this wind.”

I know she thought, but she saved her breath.

They hit a patch of seashell shingle, shifting and treacherous underfoot. She struggled to keep lifting her legs, to keep the pace up. Her thighs burned.

“He’s got a choice – aim or run.”

Run, she prayed. Keep running.

She did the same. They passed through the shingle back onto sand again. Wet sand, pockmarked with worm holes and casts, smooth and agony on the calves.

She kept running.

Then he veered, leading them out to their left, towards the centre of the bay.

“Where are you going?”

“There.” He raised an arm, pointed to the far shore, lines of brown and green and pale sand.

“You’re crazy,” she gasped, and looked over her shoulder. She could see Kendrick now, far behind, and yet way too close.

“Don’t look, move,” Kier roared and she ducked her head and pumped her legs. They’d hit smoother, wetter sand now and the going was easier and sloping slightly downhill. Hard on the ankles, though, and Jenny grimaced behind her makeshift mask.
Feet pounding on wet ground, heart thumping in her ears. Breathing hard, fighting the wind that buffeted her right side, and the sand it flung in her eyes. Kier was ahead of her, not far, but far enough to keep her legs pumping, her arms moving, wrestling every stride from a tired body.

Then she looked up, and couldn’t see Kier.

She opened her mouth to shout, but the next two strides brought him into sight. They’d come to the big tidal channel in the middle of the bay, invisible from the shore. At her level, it was almost ten metres wide, but down where Kier stood below her, up to the knees in water, it narrowed to barely a handful of feet.

He flung a hand up towards her. “Cross. Now!”

Catching his urgency, she flung herself down the sculpted slope, mud and sand crumbling under her and sending her sliding down into the cold water. She gasped at the impact, but she was barely in before Kier was hauling her bodily across the channel, almost throwing her at the other side. She dug in with fingers and toes, and threw herself forward and up, scrabbling for purchase, not allowing herself to stop for second.

Breathing was for later. Thinking could wait.

Now was only movement.

Next Post:- Expecting the Unexpected


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