Some things come naturally, be it in writing or other areas of your life. For me, making something creative like a scrapbook or a cake is easy. Playing sports or musical instruments are not easy. So I don't do it. I was always the kind of person that wasn't going to do something I couldn't be good at.
Writing changed that. I mean, I thought I was good at writing until I actually started. There was a steep learning curve, but over time you figure out what you're good at and what needs work. You compensate, you get better, and hopefully, you find success like I did. For me, characterization and plot were always first nature. Giving characters quirks, mannerisms, growth arcs, and setting them up in a plot with the right pacing and structure was just there. For that, I am eternally grateful. Characterization is really hard to learn. At the same time, sexual tension is my achille's heel. You sold to a passion line, you say? Don't I know it. No pressure, there.
Going through my revisions recently, I learned that I do a lot of the same things over and over, especially when I'm writing quickly. I decided that I need to hang a sign on my desk as a reminder. I've seen it used for motivation for weight loss or goal achievement, and I thought it was a good idea. Then I realized I probably need more than one sign.
Signs I need on my desk:
1 - Have you tingled today? Like I said, sexual tension is one of my weaknesses. I do okay with actual sex, but all the body awareness and, well, TINGLING that leads up to the sex is a constant challenge. I feel like I have it, but then the editor tells me they want more. More tingling! Smack the reader in the face with their constant longing! Sigh. So this is my first and foremost sign, directly over my monitor.
2 - You are not paid by the word. Charles Dickens might've made his money that way, but no more. Whether my book comes in at 50k or 55k, the money is the same. I find myself constantly struggling to stay under word count, even when I aim for 50,000 words.
3 - Simplify. Typically, the cause of #2 is too complicated a plot with too much conflict that makes it difficult to get to #1, tingling! I layer up so much crap on my characters its virtually impossible for them to get to the seksi. I need to simplify my plots, focus on the tingling, and all will be well.
4 - Details! All too often, my characters are floating heads moving about in a sea of nothingness. Remembering to layer in details about their clothing, their surroundings, sensory information... all stuff that I tend to blow through on the first draft. The problem is that I write a 50k word book in first draft, then by the time I get done with this step, I'm pushing 55k again. I need to learn to add it in the first time, #3 simplify, then #2 won't be as big of a problem.
Any other suggestions? Hopefully my desk will still be visible under the blizzard of post-it notes I need to leave for myself. What sign do you need hung over your desk or in your office? Have you tingled today? :)
PS. Since I wrote this, I've found something else that I want to hang over my computer. The email from my editor after I turned in the latest round of revisions. And I quote - "...we’re thrilled with the work you’ve done. The book is sexy, dramatic and romantic and yet very unique for the line. Congrats for pulling off an amazing first book!" Sometimes you need to be reminded of what you do right, too!