I was sitting at my computer last night making a few notes when it hit me--I am thisclose to finishing The Outlaw Bride. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. For two years I’ve been telling this story. It started with a premise, a ‘what if’ thought and built from there. I lost my way a few times. Connor and Kate were so eager to tell their story they didn’t allow me the time to sit down and figure out their internal/external conflicts. I meandered, backtracked, spoke sternly and tried to get them to slow down, and finally began to wonder what the hell I was doing. Frustrated, I set it aside and decided to spend some time editing The Marriage Agreement. I needed to get some distance from Kate and Connor, let their story settle in my brain before I could tell it properly. More percolating was required.
The characters stayed with me, poking my subconscious, reminding me they did indeed have a story to tell. I pushed them aside. Sshhh…busy now, Jacob and Meghan have top billing at the moment. They’ve waited ten years for me to get back to them, so you two can sit there and wait a little longer. They crossed their arms and huffed with impatience.
Then the letter came from Toronto RWA’s Original Golden Opportunity Contest. You have placed first in the historical category, it says, and Jessica Alvarez has requested that you send a full manuscript at your earliest convenience. Ack! A full?! I barely have a partial! And it’s in pieces, picked apart and hacked up, scribbled over! I didn’t know whether to be thrilled by the request or have a complete and utter mental breakdown. I opted for the former, figuring that would be far more productive, but I knew it meant buckling down and getting to work. I had to figure out the problems that plagued the first version, then write the first draft, get it critiqued, go through the second draft process.
Jacob and Meghan heaved a heavy sigh and toddled off to wait on the sidelines once again. I apologized profusely, tried to explain that sometimes you just had to roll with the punches, go with the flow.
I had wanted to have The Outlaw Bride done and out to HQN by end of April, but by mid-April I realized I had some plot issues that weren’t working. I could have slapped something together and sent it out in time to meet my internal deadline, but it wouldn’t have been the best I could do, and somehow that seemed to defeat the purpose. A waste of Ms. Alvarez’s time, as well as my own. I decided it best to take some extra time, make it the best story possible, do my best work.
Now the time is almost here. I still have to write the final two and half chapters, then set it aside for a couple of weeks, go back with fresh eyes and do the final read through, edit and polishing. My goal is to have it in the mail mid-July, definitely before the conference. I desperately wanted to have D&B outlined before Reno, so I would have a first draft to pitch while I was down there. I could pitch The Marriage Agreement, but westerns are a hard sell right now, and I thought I might have better success with a Victorian set story. But that would mean rushing through the process of finishing The Outlaw Bride, and potentially compromising its quality--the artistic equivalent of biting off your nose to spite your face. I have a request for The Outlaw Bride in my hand, that, I would think should be the most important thing to concentrate on. D&B will have its own time in the spotlight. It’s a good story, I can feel it. That deep down in your bones feeling you get when you hit on something and know it’s gold. I have the same feeling about the second in the series that will follow it. Already I love these characters traipsing about inside my head, patiently waiting for me to finish with Connor and Kate so they can have their turn.
Poor Jacob and Meghan are going to have to wait a little while longer. Perhaps by the time the Widowed Wives series is completed, westerns will be back in fashion, and Jacob and Meghan will get the attention they deserve.
All I can say is thank God for First Draft in 30 Days, because I have way too many stories crowding my cranium to spend two years on every book as I have with The Outlaw Bride. My head is overrun with characters searching for a home. If I don’t start getting them down on paper and creating one for them, my imagination may well get trampled to smithereens from all the foot traffic.