So I’ve Finished Another First Draft…Now What?


Yup! That’s how I feel when I’ve finally made it to the end of another story.

But what happens now?

Every author has their own process they go through. I thought I’d see if I could pinpoint how I get from the thrill of finishing that first draft to nearing the point of publication.


It certainly is quite a transformation.

But here’s my must-do list.

  1. Delete any and all unnecessary description that slows flow. I often ask myself: Does my reader really care about this little bit of info? Make them feel like they’re in the scene and move on.
  2. Combine sentences to show/tell the same thing in one rather than three while still maintaining a balance of short and long sentences.
  3. Watch out for info dumping and delete unnecessary parts that neither mean something to the plot nor move the story forward. This is the time to be ruthless. Murder those darlings!


4. Search for cliches and ditch them. Be original.

5. Search for overused words. I have a slew of those suckers that creep into my stories.

6. Check all those ideas and thoughts that I hopped out of the shower to jot down in the notes section of my phone. Add in and fix per the list of Things-To-Do-For-BookXYZ.

7. Read the story out loud. How does it sound? Does it flow? Do my characters sound like real people? The story should sound as natural as it would if you were sitting at a pub with your bestie and simply telling her the story.


8. Rewrites and edits—no matter how many passes it takes—are a must.


9. Tackle opening sentences of each chapter. Same goes for mini-cliffhangers or some sort of exciting news at the end of each chapter. I really do want to keep my readers turning pages.

10. Let it sit. This is a must for me. When I let my manuscript sit for a week to a month, the time away from the story gives my brain a break. And my brain works in very unusual ways. After time, I no longer have sentences memorized. I find out if a scene is funny, or sad, or just terribly bad. At this point, I also find issues I missed because I was too close to the story. Once, I wrote an entire chapter that rhymed. What? Yup. I had no clue I’d done it. Some days I talk in rhyme without even thinking. Told you my brain is strange.

11. Read. Read. Read. If I don’t move on to another story while BookXYZ is sitting, I read.


AND EAT! I tend to forget the importance of nutrition.

12. Shout the news that I’ve got another story for my beta reader(s) to critique. Then pray that they’ll tell me the truth.


13. Give it all another go… one more time… giving the story everything I’ve got left in me.


14. Write for me, not for sales!


15. Celebrate the accomplishment. After all, writing a story is not an easy task!

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few other things I do along the way.

What steps do you go though? I’d love to hear about them.

Retreats and Obsession

Though a Writing Retreat is months away, I’m already gearing up for the trip and making a list of needs or wants to generate a more enjoyable, week.

Okay, I do buy items that aren’t really necessary, but what can I say? I might need them. Lol

My husband rolls his eyes when he gazes at a corner filled with bags of toiletries, and items that have a long shelf life. A couple of weeks before leaving, it’s easy to add extra items to my grocery list, cross them off, then slide them into waiting bags for the trip. This process saves me a ton of time when I make a last stop at the grocery store trip for refrigerated items. 

Let’s don’t forget cleaning supplies. Heaven forbid. I refuse to take for granted the place is germ free…so out comes my disinfectant spray and paper towels to clean counters, bathrooms, etc.

Don’t think I don’t run two loads of dishes we’ll use while there…because I do.

Is anyone else as paranoid particular as I am when it comes to cleaning a condo before spending an entire week where who knows what type person came before you?

Granted, I admit I’m paranoid particular and cleaning requires time. Still, that nice cup of steaming coffee is definitely satisfying once I’m settled in front of the computer and fingers on keyboard. The view is awesome, especially when we have spectacular sunsets.

Here’s a couple of shots of amazing sunsets from last year. Maybe it was the year before that. Regardless, I hope you enjoy the view!




Please check out these links to my books, available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords.

I wish you Butterflies, Music and Love

New Release – A Baby for Easter

I’m excited to announce the release of the third book in my Holiday Bundles of Joy series. A Baby for Easter is a little different from the others—it’s a prequel to A Baby for New Year’s, told in the words of Meg’s mother, Helen, as she looks back on a pivotal time in her life.

Easter cover2.inddHelen Ellis rarely talks about how she met her late husband, Blake. When her granddaughter Julie begs her to tell the story, Helen finally delves into bittersweet memories from the summer of 1978, when a young bartender’s dreamy good looks caught her eye and his kind soul captured her heart. But having run from her strict religious home at eighteen, and then broken away from her cheating boyfriend, Helen wasn’t ready to give up her newfound freedom. With Blake set to leave for relief work overseas, a temporary romance seemed inevitable—until an unplanned pregnancy turned their plans upside down.

Available now for only 99 cents!

New Project – Spring 2017


Happy Wednesday, All!

As some of you may know, I am a lawyer by training as well as a high-conflict family law mediator.

I mention that because up until now I haven’t been able to write about any aspect of law. That was work. Writing romance was escape.


Now that I’ve put a little distance between me and the courtroom, I am jazzed about legal storytelling.


Below is my first chapter (rough) of my new endeavor. Although there will be some romantic elements in this story, it is more of a legal thriller. Because it isn’t romance central, I’m thinking of using M.L. MacDonald as my author name. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

I’ll still write quirky Celtic-based romance under the name, Leigh Morgan. This newest creation is simply too far afield from that.

What do you think? Should an author have multiple identities if there are divergent genre’s involved?

Wish me luck, and Happy Reading,





Molly MacBride made her way out of her law office, a Gone Fishing sign in one hand, her Jeep keys in the other. She was wrapping the twine string over the rusty nail on her front door when her phone rang. She stopped and waited. It was after five, about three minutes after, yet still after hours. Most people gave up when she didn’t answer by the fifth ring.

This caller was different. This caller let the phone go unanswered for ten rings. Most didn’t have the patience for that kind of unrequited commitment. That alone should have told Molly all she need to know about whomever was calling. She hooked the sign and turned the key on the front door. She needn’t have locked it. No one in Settlers Grove would dare enter a business after hours. Especially one that owed as much cash as it produced. MacBride Law Offices had nothing worth stealing, unless one counted the old newspapers Molly hung on her office wall. A left over from her father, who’d brought them back from Edinburgh. James MacBride had been proud of them. For that reason and that reason alone, Molly kept them. They reminded her of an easier time, when her parents were alive and life’s joys included more than fishing on a spring evening.

She managed to get the door of her Wrangler open before her cell phone began to vibrate. She ignored the first few vibrations as she started the Jeep. Henry was no doubt already waiting for her at the river. She’d seen him this morning packing the cooler with Leinenkugels and oranges. Her surrogate father loved oranges. He’d been telling her since she could cast a line that the secret to catching fish was eating oranges. Fish like oranges. And limburger cheese. Molly drew the line at limburger, but she ate the oranges.

Her phone stopped vibrating, then started again. Few people had her private number. Molly didn’t hand it out. She hated talking on the phone outside of work. She hated carrying her work with her. She’d only gotten a family plan, because Henry was getting older and she didn’t want him thinking he couldn’t reach her when he need to.

Molly looked at the phone. The number came up as blocked. That meant government number. Not a good sign. Few people at the court house had her cell number. Those who did, wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important. Especially at almost five minutes after five on a Friday afternoon. Everyone who knew Molly well enough to have her cell number knew she’d be on the water casting lines with Henry until dusk.

Molly answered the call. “Someone better be on fire,” she said.

“Caught you before you could sink a line, MacBride?” judge Boyd asked, knowing he had.

“If I’d have made it to the water, and I knew it was you, my phone would be in the river by now.”

“Ah, Molly, you wound me, you really do.” Seamus Boyd’s voice grew more serious, “You know I wouldn’t be calling if I had another option.”

Molly took a deep breath. That’s exactly what she was afraid of. Seamus liked fishing even more than she did. He wouldn’t violate the sanctity of the fine art without a damned good reason. “I’m not on call today, Seamus.”

“But you are on Monday.”

“Fine. Call me Monday.”

“This won’t wait.”

“Whatever it is, give it to Dirk. He’s on call on Friday.” Dirk James was the attorney for any child needing emergency services on Fridays. Among the Guardians ad Litem, he’d drawn the short stick because he was the newest and the youngest. No one wanted to work Fridays in juvenile court. Social workers always seemed to take kids on Fridays and hold them for the weekend. Shit duty. Molly had done her share of it. She earned her way out. Monday was her day.

Nothing of consequence ever happened on Monday. Unless it was a trial, and those required scheduling. Monday was clear for Molly. No trials. No emergencies. Nobody on fire.

Molly rubbed her forehead. She looked at her watch. Ten minutes after five. On a bloody Fishing Friday. “I’m not going to get out of this, am I Seamus?”

“I could order you, if it would make you feel better.”

“I’d rather you just tell me why Dirk can’t handle whatever it is. He’s new, but he’s not stupid.” Molly was looking for any way out of what was coming. Dirk James wasn’t stupid, but he wasn’t the brightest bulb either. Hard work didn’t seem to be his default position.

“I’ve got a removal case,” Seamus said pausing.

Molly waited. Removal cases were family court cases. A pain, but hardly emergent. They involved one parent removing the children from their ‘home state’ and coming to live in another jurisdiction. Like Settlers Grove, Wisconsin. Child placement in those cases was always an issue. One Molly, or any of the Guardian’s ad Litem who worked for the county, would address. It was the Guardian’s job to give a recommendation to the court on what was in the child’s best interests regarding when they spent time with each parent and under what conditions. Guardians gave recommendations on more than that, but that summarized the gist of what they did in family court.

Seamus’s voice thickened. “I’ve issued a Juvenile Injunction based on what little I heard from Dirk. He interviewed the elder girl and gave me a verbal summary on the record.” Seamus paused. “I stopped him after thirty seconds. It’s bad, Molly. Really bad. I want to go home and hug my kids and never let them go, right after I vomit, kind of bad.”

“Where are they?” Molly asked.

“Women’s shelter on your way home,” Seamus said, sounding relieved and tired at the same time.

“When is the hearing for the Permanent Injunction?”

“Monday. Nine a.m. I spoke to the father on speaker phone after Dirk James gave his summary. I ordered him in at eight so you’d have time to interview him. No doubt he’ll come with a barrage of lawyers, so if you need more time, I’ll grant you an extension for another seventy-two hours.”

“What aren’t you telling me, judge?”

Seamus Boyd chuckled without mirth, “So it’s judge now, is it?”

“It is when I’ll be facing a barrage of lawyers first thing Monday, on a case that makes you physically sick.”

“Wish I had someone else I trusted to give it to, Molly. I really do.”

The sincerity in Seamus’s voice put the final nail in the coffin that had been her peaceful evening. Followed by a weekend of reading and riding and eating more of Henry’s Sunday waffles than anyone her size should.

“What are you trying so hard not to tell me, Seamus?”

“The father is a senator.”

Molly chest constricted. “State senate?”

“No such luck. Junior U.S. Senator from the great state of Idaho. His secretary told me so before she put him on the phone.”


“Exactly. I’ll text you the details.”

“You said Dirk interviewed the elder child. How many kids am I representing here?”

“Two. Both girls. Ages twelve and nine.” Judge Seamus Boyd sighed heavily. The strain in his voice evident when he said, “Their names are Grace and Lily, for Chrissake. Doesn’t get more pure and innocent than that.”

Something in Seamus’s tone made Molly’s skin crawl. “The abuse is sexual?”

“Yes. Among other things.”

Molly paused then asked, “Any good news, Seamus?”

“I’ve ordered your bill paid outside the GAL contract. At fifty bucks an hour over your normal hourly rate.”

“You’re not making feel better about the case, judge.”

“Didn’t intend to. Text with case info is coming. Keep your phone on MacBride. That’s an order,” judge Seamus Boyd said, killing the call.

“And it started out to be such a promising weekend,” Molly said looking up to the heavens. It was a personal quirk of hers, talking to God. It helped. Even when Molly was certain the Almighty wasn’t listening.


What is a “Sweet or “Clean” Romance?

Lately I’ve been asked by a number of readers, and some authors too, to define a “sweet” or “clean” romance. While there seems to be some discrepancy within the publishing industry around these terms, the general consensus is that sweet romances emphasize the emotional intimacy between the hero and the heroine. Although these stories may contain sexual tension, they do not contain sex scenes—think of G to PG rated movies. It is possible for the hero and heroine to have had a sexual history, but it’s not shown on the page. Kissing is okay. Everything else is frowned upon. The same thing applies to offensive language.

These stories have internal and external conflicts, like any romance, but the sweet romance doesn’t contain violence. While the characters struggle and eventually find their happily-ever-after, it’s done with an underlying sweet theme.

Sweet romance is often confused with Inspirational romance. However, the two are different. Faith may play a role, but if it does, it’s not a key factor in a sweet romance, as it is in an Inspirational.

Because I follow the principles above, most of my books are sweet romances, even though I write in a variety of genres.

If you’ve been confused by the term “sweet” or clean” romance, I hope I’ve helped to define this very popular genre.


USA Today bestselling author Raine English writes sweet small-town contemporary romance, along with paranormal and romantic suspense. She’s a Daphne du Maurier Award winner and a Golden Heart finalist.

It’s all fun until they knock on your door.

Research is queen in the writing world. Set your story in a city like San Francisco and use detectives in your police department instead of inspectors and someone will ding you for it. We can research the minutiae of every fact in our stories until we are sure we have it right…and then sometimes we still get something wrong.

Writers make a joke about the government knocking at our doors and searching our Google searches, but sometimes if you took a look at what we have to check out you might send the men in black from the alphabet agencies our way. I’ve done research on body decomposing timelines, drowning possibilities, and the history of zombies. How to poison someone and get away with it and how to stalk and remain invisible. Scary stuff!!

If you are a member of our family-watch out! Anything and everything you do is fodder for our books. Say something ironic and funny? It may end up in that romantic comedy. Be a cop, doctor, or lawyer and mention some tidbit from work? Someone may die a terrible, gruesome death in that suspense thriller.

Several years ago I was writing a romantic comedy with a klutzy heroine who gave food poisoning to the entire fire department when she baked them a cake in thanks for rescuing her when her leg got caught in the stairs banister where she was house sitting. (romantic comedy, remember?) So I needed a food poisoning that wouldn’t kill, wouldn’t be too bad, just make you miserable. So………..the family ate sour cream that had been left out too long the previous time it was eaten (I didn’t do it.) Everyone but yours truly (hate sour cream, don’t eat it.) was miserable for hours, but lived. So while they are in the bathrooms with groans and crying I’m asking them how they feel (can’t waste an opportunity for first-hand research, of course.) To this day I’ve been accused of doing it on purpose for the story.

So, to the writers out there, if you do research, erase your searches and don’t get caught with the tainted sour cream!

Jill James, author of the Time of Zombies series (because I can’t be accused of starting the zombie apocalypse…yet.)

The Real Authors of Romance

Untitled design (1)Spend any time at all on the Bravo TV channel, you’ll probably stumble on a Real Housewives episode. There are half a dozen of these shows now, spanning cities across the world. (Did you know they have a London one? They do!) With that in mind, I’d like to suggest Andy Cohen consider a new arm of this successful franchise: Real Authors. And get this! You could do different genres! Sci-fi, horror, mystery, literary, memoir, and of course, romance.

I’d personally volunteer for The Real Authors of the Romance Genre. Imagine how fascinated viewers will be, watching us guzzle coffee while listening in on strangers’ conversations at our local Panera Bread, Starbucks, or other public writing spot and finding a way to sneak that fun bit of dialogue we overheard into our stories. Don’t you want to know how we go about researching topics as diverse as women’s underwear in the medieval era, the interior of a G-6, or the sound a bullet might make in space? You can record our booksignings where we keep a friendly smile in place while we provide such pertinent info as directions to the restrooms. Get a peek at our real thoughts when we tell a parent that yes, your child can take a piece of the chocolate we brought with us to lure prospective readers to buy an autographed copy even though we know damn well it’s not going to translate into a sale at the event or any time afterwards. See how we balance writing with family life, day jobs, doctors’ appointments, chronic illness, financial issues, personal relationships, and make it look easy. Sneak behind the scenes to see how we decide things like cover art, titles, plotting vs. pantsing, signing a contract, or finding an agent. Discover how many times we remain polite and bite our tongues when our genre is put down as “those books” or called “bodice-rippers” in the media and learn why it annoys us. Witness our breakdowns when we get that fifteenth rejection, or third round of edits, the bad review that contains spoilers, or find our books on piracy sites.

We have the drama that all Housewives franchises air: serious friendships that sometimes turn toxic, two sides to every story, haves and have-nots, up-and-comers milling with established success stories, great victories and defeats.

Need a season finale that has a big fancy party like all those housewives host? We’ve got that! It’s called the RITA awards and it takes place at our RWA National Conference every year. We have ball gowns and teary-eyed emotional speeches and gold statuettes. We’ve even had several controversies at the event over the years.

And of course, we have romance. Lots and lots of romance. Come on. You know you’d watch.

Casket or Coffin? The rivulets down which writers may find themselves…and does it really matter?

Not to be getting morbid on you this early in the piece, but really, it’s important. Getting the detail right makes a difference to the discerning reader. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, a writer may have to leave the main stream and travel down smaller and smaller rivulets until the detail becomes clear—and correct, to the best of their understanding.

I’ve known this for quite some time, but was reminded the other day, when writing a scene for one of my 1863 historical fictions. In the interest of avoiding word repetition—by using varied words to say the same thing, I used the word coffin in one line, and casket in the next…and then, as I often do, began to wonder whether substituting one for the other was appropriate…for now, and as well as 1863. As my best friend, a techie, tells me whenever I ask him a question, “Google is your friend.”

So I went online…once again.

As any writer of historical works will tell you, do your research before you begin. I do, I do…but ‘when in the course of human events, it become necessary’ to figure out the plausibility of, for example, substituting ‘casket’ for ‘coffin’, one must hit the proverbial books again.

In this case, it turned out that mere word substitution was definitely not OK.

The name selected for the burial container of your historical heroine’s uncle implies vastly different things, with respect to the period in which he lived, his cultural affiliations, and his social status as well. The number of sides? Coffins have six or eight, while caskets, in North America, at least, have four, and are designed to look like a bed—apparently, to ease the mourning process—sheltering those left behind by making the deceased seem less dead than they are. (Really? No amount of makeup could have made my grandfather look alive, to my eight-year-old eyes.) Are they shaped like the deceased, as in the anthropoid shape of a coffin, wide at the shoulders and narrow toward the feet, or rectangular like a casket? How many layers?  And the composition of those layers? While common in England a few centuries ago, a tri-layered coffin, with the middle one of lead, would have been difficult to manufacture for burial of one’s loved husband while crossing the Sierras in a covered wagon. There certainly wasn’t the space to carry a spare.

So you see why it takes a writer so long to finish even a simple paragraph?

Likewise, some readers are pretty particular about their hobby. Take, for instance, horsey people. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been riding since I was seven, and luckily, made a career out of my love for horses. I’m not a snob in general, but when I pick up a book that has a horse in it, and its characters do something a horse person would consider just plain stupid, I tend to drop the book. Say, if a character does something like whip their reins around a hitching rail (your horse will rip their mouth to shreds if they panic and pull back), wrap the reins or lead rope around their hand (good way to lose fingers), or drive a pair or team from the wrong side of a carriage (the reins are buckled together at different lengths, specifically for the side on which the driver traditionally sits). I don’t want to read any more.

Some may call it snobbery, but it’s really more that the author has just lost credibility in the reader’s eyes. If they couldn’t bother to research enough to get that simple detail right, what else could be a lie in the story?  Research, research, research, and then run it by a person in that hobby. An author won’t always get it right, but they earn points with me for doing their best.

Detail, detail, and more detail.

During The Great Flood of Sacramento, having your fictional steamboat pilot tying his boat up to the dock would have local history buffs jumping up and down in hysterics, because the pier was beneath three stories of water.

The piles for said docks were just not that long. There was an awful lot of water filling up Sacramento, not to mention the whole Central Valley of California.

In fact, there was so much water that Leland Stanford had to go to his inauguration in downtown Sacramento in a rowboat. I can suppose his wife would not have been amused. Imagine the difficulty that would have posed for management of her crinoline, and keeping her ankles covered.

HOWEVER, and this is a big one…one can research and research…and then put it all into the story.

No, you say? Whatever can you mean? I’ve discovered all this information, and I want to tell the world, now that I’m an ‘expert’ on the topic!

It won’t fly. It just won’t.

If a reader wanted a history book, they would seek out a history book.

If one is writing historical fiction, the historical detail must be used with delicacy. Subtlety. It is far too easy to launch into historical exposition, and bury the story in pet research.

I know. I did it. And I must constantly prevent myself from doing it again.

Other authors ask why I released a 3rd edition of A Long Trail Rolling.

“Move forward,” they said. “It’s your first novel, get on with the next book!”.

I couldn’t.

This may have been my first book, but it was also the launching pad for my first series. The suboptimal reviews I’ve received (from the first edition) have complained of historical exposition, or history book-type rants about what I loved from my research. As Stephen King says, “Kill your darlings”. To those of you who offered these comments, thank you—it’s helped my writing evolve.

Writing historicals can be an exercise in trying to get out of the research and into putting words down on the page—for me, anyway—but maybe I’m just easily distracted. It’s also my excuse to keep delving deeper into the period in which I’m engaged. I love it, but it’s a bit of an addiction, this research. I can’t seem to get enough, and it will probably remain a compulsion, best kept under control.

Maybe we can start a new club. RA—Researchers Anonymous.

Maybe I’ll write a contemporary. A short one. I might finish it a lot faster…

Oh yeah, I’m doing that…soon…for Authors of Main Street’s next Christmas Boxed Set!

Here’s a teaser for that story…horsey girl in veterinary school…what she gets up to—and beyond.



I’m getting set to release Book Three in The Long Trails series of historical romantic thrillers, called A Sea of Green Unfolding, in digital and paperback.

During the run-up to release day, I’ll be offering digital copies of Book One of the series, A Long Trail Rolling, for only 99c, and preorders for A Sea of Green Unfolding at a discounted rate until release day!  Come on by my author site to sign up for my newsletter to stay informed!

Thanks so much for reading, I’ll see you again soon!



Lizzi Tremayne

A New Author of Main Street: Magdalena Scott


Hello! I’m thrilled to be a new member here on Authors of Main Street. When I was invited to write a guest post for February, I immediately felt at home. Imagine my pleasure at being asked to become part of this wonderful group of writers!


Since you may not have “met” me before, I thought I should do a little intro today. I’m a lifelong “small town girl,” having grown up in a corner of the Midwest that most people have never heard of, let alone visited. I’m also a USA Today Bestselling author of small town sweet romance and women’s fiction.

If each of our lives is a book, I’m in the second chapter of mine.

In the first chapter, I grew up in a loving family, made lifelong friendships starting at age one year, two months, and three days old–when the next girl cousin was born. I fell in love with writing stories as soon as I learned cursive. My first publishing credit was in second grade–a haiku in a national Sunday school magazine.

I was blessed to live my own small town love story, and during 30 years of marriage to the smartest, most unique man I’ve ever met, became Mom to a wonderful son. The end of chapter one was becoming a widow when my husband died from a brain tumor.

Rose On Wood BW

Add Minimalist-in-Training to my Resume

My second chapter has included downsizing from the big family home to a studio apartment, writing full-time,  and becoming mother-in-law to an amazing young woman. I also found a second chance romance. (Good to know those don’t just happen in novels!)


I love to travel, and in autumn 2015 took an unexpected, dream-come-true trip to Ireland with one of those lifelong friends I mentioned. But my fulltime residence is still in small town America, where life in the slow lane includes plenty of heartwarming, simple pleasures–concerts, plays, festivals, street fairs, and old-fashioned family recipes shared at reunions or backyard barbecues. I’ve seen my town be at its best when family, friends, and often the entire community pull together as life’s challenges threaten.

I currently have two small town contemporary romance series available for readers. All the books are wholesome romance (also known as clean, or sweet).

The heartwarming stories of SERENDIPITY, INDIANA: This series is set in, and around, the Standish family Christmas tree farm. Each Serendipity story includes one or more instances of the life-changing magic of Love. (More concrete thinkers may see these as random coincidences.) The Serendipity series contains sweet romance, and also romantic women’s fiction (Emily’s Dreams, The Blank Book). The Blank Book and A Piece of Her Soul also have a light paranormal element. Seven books are available now, with the eighth scheduled to release on June 1st.

The McClains of Legend, Tennesee

The small town charm of THE McCLAINS OF LEGEND, TENNESSEE: This series invites readers into the lives and loves of the large, sometimes exasperating, and always entertaining McClain family, to whom Legend has been home for generations.

If you want to learn more about me, please visit my blog and/or my website. To get all the latest news, and the occasional nifty perk, sign up for my monthly-ish newsletter.

Until we meet again–happy reading!


When a Story Goes Astray

Okay, I’ll admit it. I goofed. I started writing what I thought would be a sweet Christmas novella for the 2017 Christmas boxed set by the Authors of Main Street. Except my simple story has grown in length. The guidelines we follow are pretty relaxed and simple for these boxed sets. All new, great stories of novella length, 18K-40K words (I promise no one counts words), holiday themed (often an underlying theme), and no cliffhangers.

Here’s the dilemma. A romance usually ends in certain places such as the commitment for a lasting relationship such as an engagement ring or a wedding ring. So what have I done? He’s given her the engagement ring, actually without too much fanfare. The hardest part was getting to the point of asking. 😉  But I’m about to tip over the max word count.  I really need another 20k-30k words to finish this story. If I wrap it up for Christmas, I’m missing a big chunk of the story!

  • So do I rip part of the story away? No, because I’m not going to take the life out of this story.
  • Do I quickly tie up the story and put a bow on it? I hate reading stories where I’m so into the characters that when a writer does that I want to scream no and never read that author again.
  • Do I just tip over the word count and warn my fellow authors out here on Main Street? Oops! I think I just told them. (It’s not nice to hog the space in the boxed set.)
  • Or do I write this one until I feel it’s finished, and then write another for the boxed set? Time! I need more time!!

And there’s one more problem, I already know this is not going to end on that wonderful wedding. If I ended it there, I think my readers would be furious with me. Why? Because in the real world, it wouldn’t make sense. I can’t change the timeline of certain events. Darnit! The readers would be left hanging. Not a cliffhanger, but leaving them with the feeling that they were shortchanged, because they are left with all those life questions.

So I’m sitting here making the only decision that makes any sense. It’s extremely basic.  Write the story until it ends. Write the whole story, otherwise it won’t be a great story. So I’m about to go way over word count and that means I’ll have to write another story for the boxed set. I can do that.

This story tips the scale into literary fiction more than romance, even though there’s a romance tangled into it. This is a journey of two people who had found each other and have fallen madly in love. But the journey is not easy. Getting to their HEA (happily ever after) isn’t going to be solved with a wedding. It’s too complicated.

Real life is a walk through a maze filled with roses. There are plenty of thorns on those canes. The most beautiful roses often have no scent, the lowliest ones can be the sweetest, and some of the hardiest ones can be vicious with thorns. But if you take the time during the journey, you will discover the finch’s nest, the green tree frog hiding in the petals, the dizzying hum of the bees, the lady bug, and countless other creatures along the way. But there will always be those thorns, waiting to grab at your legs or shirt sleeve.  So I willingly took the path with an ending in mind, but somehow I plucked a rose and found myself tangled in thorns. Yet the air is sweet, and filled with song.

I can explain story arcs to a room filled with wannabe writers. I can teach them to write a beginning, a middle, and an end. But I can’t tell them how to stay within a word count because every story will demand a certain number of words. If I ended this one with a Christmas wedding, then my readers would be furious because there’s an arc that must be completed.

So I have strayed down a path. I’m not sorry for what I’ve done. In fact, I’m thrilled with this story.  It’s just not going to be a novella. There’s a great big story in this manuscript, and it needs to be told.

Guess I’ll have to write another story for our Christmas boxed set.