Saturday, April 3, 2010

Welcome Alannah Lynne

As an avid reader, I always wondered where writers came up with their ideas. I’ve been asked that question several times myself recently, and thought I’d share the details of the long, drawn-out, often painful journey of writing Savin’ Me.

As a new writer, there was one piece of advice I’d heard over and over: Write what you know. This sounded like a good idea since I knew nothing about the actual writing process.

People always seemed interested in how I met my husband, and it had a happy ending, so I decided to write about that. I mean, it was something I knew. Right? (I can hear you all laughing now)

I’d just finished the first draft when I heard about the TARA (Tampa Area Romance Authors) contest. (http://www.tararwa.com/contest.php) It seemed like a great way to get feedback, something I desperately needed. I got the first chapter spit-shined and sent off and began the uncomfortable step of waiting. I don’t remember how long it was from the time I sent the entry in to the time I heard back, but it seemed like years (it wasn’t, of course, it just felt that way).

While waiting, I took several writing classes and was beginning to realize how awful the chapter was that I’d sent off to TARA! I dreaded getting the judges’ comment’s back, because I knew they were going to be bad. And, as luck would have it, they couldn’t have come at a worse time.

It was the third week of July. It was the week after my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor, my oldest son was diagnosed with kidney problems, and my youngest son was told he needed to have 5 teeth pulled. Yes, that all happened in a week’s time!

To say I was overwrought and overwhelmed would be an understatement. When I saw the TARA envelope in my mailbox, a sick knot of dread wrapped around my stomach. I couldn’t stand to open it and hear how awful it was. I needed good news, not to beaten down some more. I carried the envelope into the house and went straight to the trashcan with it.

My curiosity, however, got the best of me and several hours later I retrieved it from the trash. I waited to open it, though, until several days later when I was feeling a little stronger and thought I could take it.

All of the judges said the same thing. They liked my voice, they liked my characterization but….there wasn’t any conflict. Well, of course there wasn’t. LOL My relationship with my husband isn’t perfect but…well…there wasn’t a lot of conflict.

Encouraged by the judges’ comments, I sat back down and started again. I kept the characters, and wrote in what I thought was a bunch of conflict. However, my critique partner said there still wasn’t enough.

I rewrote the story again…in its entirety…for the second time. By this time, I was working with two new CPs and they really liked it but had a few comments and additions that resulted in…severe edits that could probably be considered rewrites.

Okay, let me say, at this point…I should have taken what I’d learned, applied it to a new story and stuffed this one in a very deep hole. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I loved Erik. And by this time, he was so wounded, I needed to make sure he had his happy ending.

I’m not sorry that I rewrote it so many times and spent four and a half years of my life with Kat and Erik. But I don’t think I’d do it again. First, I hope I’ve learned enough in these past four years that it wouldn’t take me that many tries to get it right. And secondly, I’m smarter about my career now. Hopefully, I know when it’s time to release a work-in-process, and move on to something new.

If you’d like to win a copy of either Savin’ Me, or my previous release, Reaction Time, leave a comment. I’ll be checking in periodically to answer questions or comments. Thanks Janet, and the rest of the Prairie Chicks, for having me here today. I appreciate the opportunity to share my adventure.

Please leave your e-mail address in your comments (using at, dot, spaces to fool those nasty trolls) and check back on Sunday for the name of the winner.

Be sure to check out Alannah's website http://www.alannahlynne.com/ and her blog http://www.alannahlynne.blogspot.com/.

19 comments:

Janet said...

Welcome to The Prairies, Alannah. I'm so happy you could join us and bring us the story behind Savin' Me. It gives me hope for the endless revisions I seem to be doing for Lady Bells. I guess if you believe in something with that much conviction, it can only succeed.

You talk about writing what you know, and I know that your first book Reaction Time was about car racing (I also know you're a huge fan of Nascar) - so could you share with us what you're working on now and how it relates to 'writing what you know'?

Looking forward to the day, Alannah!

Alannah Lynne said...

Thanks, Janet!

LOL...OK...your question made me blush slightly because not only does Reaction Time deal with race cars, it's also a story of Dominance/submission.

I actually did a TON of research for that story. I'm a huge NASCAR fan, and while I like drag racing, I'm not nearly as well educated about it as I am NASCAR. I'm pretty much a geek when it comes to NASCAR and often make comments just before the announcers do about the way a car is handling, etc. I know the different kinds of cars in the NHRA, but that's it. So I did need to do some research there.

As for the D/s...that made me very nervous and I spent more time researching that than I'll ever be able to track. Someone once asked which reference books on my bookshelf were most used and I told them, "My most used reference books are locked in a drawer!"

But I heard from several readers who are in the lifestlye with comments like, "I don't know if you live the lifestyle or not, but I get the sense that you definitely "get" what it's all about." Those were the highest compliments I'll probably ever receive in regards to my writing.

Alannah Lynne said...

Sorry, that was getting so long I figured I should break it up. As for what's next...

I'm currently working on a romantic suspense with my uncle - heavy on the suspsense, not so much on the romance. There's been so much research involved, and it's so "procedurally" written, that I've really struggled with getting it finished.

In effort to satisfy the muse, I just decided yesterday to write Kevin's story - Kevin is one of Erik's best friends (from Savin' Me).

I've had the idea for a while, but kept putting it off to finish the RS. However, I'm feeling grumpy and not very happy with where I am in my writing, so I think I need to just dive in and write Kevin's story.

AND...as I lay in la-la land this morning thinking it through (that's when I get my best ideas), I started to realize I think this story is going to have some elements of D/s, as well.

Not nearly like Reaction Time, and more played down, but control is going to be a big issue between Kevin and his heroine, and I think that will be a great way to work through it with them.

In regards to your edits. Here's the most important thing that I've learned about editing. You need to polish, and make it as great a story as you can. But you need to stop before you edit out your voice.

There's a balance, and it's not easy to find, but it's so important to learn where that balance is. Maybe we can make that a topic of one of the chats in RWAOL (more news of organized chats to come soon).

Thanks a million Janet for letting come here and hang out today!!!

Alannah Lynne said...

Oh, and darn, I almost forgot. I do have the first three chapters of a story in the inbox of a Harlequin Blaze editor. LOL Lord, it's been there so long I tend to forget about it.

When she responds and I either need to edit, or begin working on the next three chapters, I'm going to have to completely reorient myself with that story!

Sheesh...I can't believe I forgot that!

Paula R said...

Alannah, you have a Hqn Blaze idea...oooo...Love me some Blazes. It is great to see your here with the Chicks.

So, Kevin gets a story. Do I smell a possible series here? I really hope so...Love series. I hope you have fun with the Chicks today. I have to go wake up the boys, but I will check back in later.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Alannah Lynne said...

Hi Paula!!

I've actually been working with "The Brenda" (as she's known aroun my house) for over a year and a half, trying to get an idea she liked. She rejected one synopsis, then worked through an idea with me, then approved my synopsis and told me to send her the first 3 chapters.

I sent those to her the day before Thanksgiving so I'm just waiting now to hear back from her with either changes or the okay to go ahead and start working on the next 3 chapters.

As for series, it could end up being a series. I originally wrote Savin' Me with the idea of having a few spin-off characters so I might try to work that out.

Kevin is a hugely popular character, and then there's Steve. He's been Erik's best friend since they were 5 and they got caught under the jungle gym looking up the girl's skirts on the first day of kindergarten. LOL

He's a professional BMX rider who's facing the end of his career, so...yeah, he might get a story too.

And, I'd love to force Elise (the bitch from hell in Savin' Me) together with Rusty (Kat's boss in Savin' Me). I don't know why, but I think that would be a really fun story to write. Poor Rusty, though. I'm just not sure if I can do that to him. LOL

Have a great day, Paula, and I'll see ya later!

Silver James said...

Hi, Alannah! It's great to see you out here on the prairies! Don't put me in the running. I already have both books, though I have to admit I haven't gotten to SAVIN' ME, yet. *blush*

I can relate to having a project sitting on an editors desk. The standard advice is start something new. So we do. And tend to forget about what's sitting out there as our heads fill up with new ideas, characters, and plots.

I'm intrigued by your new project with your uncle. You know me and procedurals. LOL!

Hang in there on The Brenda project. That'll come! And have a safe trip tomorrow!

Celia Yeary said...

ALANNAH--You must be a good writer because you made me cry. You have a lovely story, and I'm thrilled for you that you got it published. I, too, entered RWA contests to get the critique sheets. It's not only a way to get something for your money, it gives you a valuable source of information. I entered probalby five with three different ms, and then I made a big spread-sheet of the positives and the negatives. I instantly pinpointed my big weakness.
I also love your book cover. I'd love to win a copy, but I'm sure everyone else does, too. Thanks for such a good article.
celiayeary AT Yahoo DOT com
Best wishes! Celia

Anita Mae Draper said...

Welcome Alannah. Man, do I know where you're coming from! I've entered my mss in contests and done well with them (top 25% usually) and finaled but never won. This year, 2 new CP's ripped my ms to shreds because of not enough conflict (ring a bell?). Like you, I believe in the story enough and am in the process of massive rewrites. I've just submitted the re-written entries and now have to wait forever for the results.

Hopefully this time I've learned something. :)

I'd love to win your book but I'll have to catch you on a blog I'm not a member of. Thank you for listing your blogging dates on your website.

Speaking of which... I really like the look of your website. In yesterday's post, we were discussing websites, blogs and blog pages so now my curiosity is up... did you do your own and where did you get the ideas?

Anita.

Alannah Lynne said...

Howdy, Silver. Good to see you! When I get a little further along on this RS I'm going to give you a shout. I'd love to get your opinion on it, especially becuase of your work history. :)

Celia - what a wonderful compliment! My goal as a writer is to make people feel. I don't like to be sad, so I don't leave readers in a low spot for long, but I do like to make them feel a range of emotions. Hopefully, I've done that in Savin' Me.

While writing one particularly tough scene, where Erik reveals to Kat his painful past, I found myself crying. Hopefully, I was able to relay that emotion to the reader.

Hi Anita! My website - and the cover for Savin' Me - were both done by Rae Monet. I can't recommend her enough. She's quick, reasonably priced, and so easy to work with. And she always gets the feel and look I'm going for.

You can see her other work at www.raemonetinc.com

Paula R said...

OMG Alannah, I didn't know you were waiting on "The Brenda." That is awesome! I love her because she made it possible for me to find the plotmonkeys and a bunch of my other fave Blazin' Babes.

Yay for the possible series. I love going through a range of emotions with characters, which is a great sign. Les's Black CATs did that to me.

Oooo....Elise and Rusty sounds like a good mix. Opposites attract and all that. When I finish the book, I will let you know what I think about that.

Silver, I haven't gotten into them yet either...so you are not alone babe.

Have a wonderful day too. I will check back in later to see how things are going.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Alannah Lynne said...

Celia - I was running the vacuum (oh joy) and realized I hadn't commented on the spreadsheet. What a brilliant idea! That's great that it helped you pinpoint what you needed to work on. I'm sure it also showed you what you were doing right - which is incredibly important to know to!

Gosh, Paula, I thought I'd mentioned the great Brenda wait on my blog a couple of times. Maybe you missed those days (or maybe I'm dreaming and didn't actually talk about it like I thought I had).

It's been a long time - it seems longer - and I try really hard not to think about it much. LOL There's nothing I can do but wait, so it seems non-productive to dwell on it.

I have, however, spent most of the day thinking about Kevin and his story and the more I think about it, the more excited I get.

Hubby and I are going away for the weekend next weekend, and I'm supposed to be on a complete work hiatus. No writing, no internet.

BUT...I broke it to him at lunch today that I might be spending a tremendous amount of time with Kevin while we're gone on our get-away. Hubby just grinned and shook his head. I'm so lucky that he's so supportive!!

Paula R said...

You are right, he is very supportive. Maybe you can use pen and paper, rather than the comp...great compromise that...LOL!!!

I don't remember reading that you are waiting on The Brenda...I think I might have missed those days if you did mention it.

I keep forgetting to say this...you don't have to enter me in the contest. I already have RT and SM. Did I say this already? Got a sense of Dejavu.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Alannah,
It's great to have you with us on the Prairies today.

I'm impressed that you stuck with your story through so many edits. In your case the perseverence paid off. But when do you think a writer should give up on an idea or a story, either finished or unfinished? Are there any signs or red flags that tell you it's time to move on to something else?

Thanks,
Jana

Janet said...

Sorry I didn't get back here last night to wrap things up - friends over and the evening went late.

I remember you talking about "The Brenda", Alannah - and I was going to ask you how that was going. Waiting can be so hard - but the opportunity you have is amazing!

Thank you so much for taking time out of you busy life (and postponing your trip by a day) to be with us on The Prairies. It was great that you could chat about your future writing and remind us all that persistance is a big part of the game.

Best of luck with Savin' Me. Enjoy your trip - safe drive - and Happy Easter :)

Alannah Lynne said...

Hi Jana!

It's so hard to know where to strike that balance. I have a CP who has been polishing her story for over a year. Not writing it, but editing it. Our other CP, and myself, keep telling her, "It's time to send that baby out. You're going to edit your voice right out of it. Let it go, take what you've learned and apply it to something new."

But how do you know when you're reached that point? I think you just have to go with gut (and listen to CP's..LOL). Know you've done the best you can and let go.

However, for new writers, finishing is a very important step. Through RWA Online I've run into several new writers who get frustrated, think they've hit a roadblock, the story is unfixable, and they start something new.

In that case, the most important thing is to finish. Because you have to know that you can finish a book. I've never heard of a writer going from start to finsh without having some kind of trouble. So learning to work through them, figure out where you took a wrong turn, then getting back on track to the finish is a huge learning step in itself.

In the case of Savin' Me, I'd already finished. A few times! :) Now, if I had that many problems, I would sit it aside and think through the problems while I was working on something else. Then go back and rewrite when I had all the pieces in place.

I'd only rewrite like that once. Then do my edits. And send it out into the world. But I've learned so much more in the past 4 years, that I'm comfortable with when and how to do that. I have 3 stories sitting on my hard drive now, waiting for me to figure out what they need so I can go back and fix them.

Gosh, sorry so long with that explanation. :) Short answer, listen to your CP's in this case, trust them to help you know when it's time to be finished, and trust your gut!

Alannah Lynne said...

Hi Janet!

What makes the waiting on Brenda especially hard, is when I hear from other authors who say, "I signed a new contract with Brenda," and I think, "Stop with signing everyone else and look at my stuff!" LOL

I just got an e-mail from a friend of mine (I mean, this morning!) - an author who's been around for a long time writing for Temptation and then for Brenda, before going out into single titles. The e-mail said, "I just signed a new contract with Brenda for a novella. Have you heard anything?" Then she said, "I hate to ask because if you tell me no I'm going to cringe. I know how frustrating that waiting is."

Alas...my response will be no. LOL

Thanks for letting me spend the day here Janet. It's been a great, fun day!!

Happy Easter to those who celebrate!!

Mimi Barbour said...

Hi Alannah,
After reading your blog, I want to tell you how happy I was that you did get Savin’ Me published. You deserved to. It might have taken you over four years of rewrites and fixes but I’d just count that as your “author in training” time.
Good luck with Kevin’s Story!
Mimi

Joanna Aislinn said...

Hi Alannah (what a great name for a heroine!),

I can definitely relate to the learning-when-to-let-go-of-the-wip part; I tend to hang on way too long whether in edits or revision of that newly completed ms. Hopefully, I'll do better with this next one!

Joanna Aislinn
NO MATTER WHY
The Wild Rose Press

www.joannaaislinn.com
www.joannaaislinn.wordpress.com