Captive Lies was a “turning point” book. I wanted to explore my writing voice, to see where I could improve and to figure out what could be holding me back. I have always written what I wanted which was why quitting my day job wasn’t in my immediate future. 😉
Let me backtrack a bit. Writing Fire & Ice started out as an accident. I’d been reading about amazing alpha male heroes but they were always getting paired with doormat heroines and I got frustrated. Out of that frustration, I wrote the first five chapters of F&I and sent it to my friend and forgot about it. A couple of weeks later, she emailed me back and asked me where the rest of the manuscript was. And I thought, really? Someone wanted to read it? I went ahead plotting and writing the rest of it, googling editors and sending it off to one I found. No way was I publishing unedited work. I got good feedback as well as critique. I had a male editor, and he thought Jack was a wooden character, but he liked Maia and my plot was well-paced. Made some adjustments and the rest, as they say, was history.
I’ve always liked to tinker with a character’s story arc, but I noticed I always followed what was the “trend.” I’ve ventured into dark and twisty with Deadly Obsession, but that hesitation to go darker than I was comfortable with curtailed some of its storyline. Don’t get me wrong, I loved how it turned out, but I knew I could have explored it more, but would I be writing “me?”
Then I wrote the alpha-hole that was Matt in Saving Grace. Could I have made him more of an asshole or did I hesitate because I didn’t want readers to hate him so much? Or maybe his arc was a bit too contrived? Maybe a bit, but that was where my editor and betas came in and I think he’s still an asshole but he’s my lovable asshole. 😉
I was learning throughout my writing journey, but I wasn’t exactly sure what I was learning.
Then came clarity.
So, let’s get back to Captive Lies. I wanted this to be my experimental book. A book where someone with a lot of experience would develop it alongside me and tell me if I was on the right path. I found Christina Trevaskis of Book Matchmaker when I read a book of an author I loved.
And so began my search for my “true” voice. It appeared I was on the right path all along with a but. As a writing coach, the first thing Christina told me was to quiet the noise. She explained it here in her blog post “Don’t Press the Mute Button”. Do not let reviews or readers dictate what you write because you will lose the heart of your writing. Your true readers will know and will love whatever you write, and new readers will find you. The way I see it, reviews are written for readers, not for authors. Am I pleased to see positive reviews for my book? I’m thrilled! But I’ve learned not to let negative reviews get me down because reading is subjective and they’re simply not the readers I want to attract. Don’t be afraid to write “you.” I think that was why Jack and Maia remained to be a reader favorite couple because I wrote them from the heart with no input, no influence of reviews or other readers because it was my very first book.
More about my other characters in another post. I want to talk about Viktor Baran and Admiral Porter but these two deserve a post of their own.
The first draft of Captive Lies was written in under six-weeks and it was mostly written from inspiration. As I was working with Christina, I also started reading Stephen King’s book “On Writing” (see resources). I decided that I didn’t want input for my first draft and wrote it the way I envisioned it. After I was done, I sent it to Christina. She said the bones of my story were good, but somehow my male character needed more fleshing out and the first half of my story was hard to connect to. The first four chapters were in the hero’s POV (3rd person) with flashbacks, so when it was time to introduce the heroine’s POV (1st person), the result was jarring and took Christina out of the story. So, my second draft had me overhauling the first few chapters. I ditched my original prologue which was set in the airport and moved it forward. I reworked the flashbacks to a one jump back in time to when the hero and heroine first met and wrote it in alternating POVs with a linear progression of events. My four chapters became eight, but it was necessary to show their connection before shit hit the fan so to speak. 🙂
In short, my first draft was a mess.
This was how Christina explained it and could be different for other writers. For me, the first draft was to get the story out and the second draft was to add layers to the plot and characters. The richness of the story happened in the second draft. As Christina said, it was because the stress of the first draft was over. For Captive Lies I went through three major drafts and a fourth minor one. I had awesome beta readers as well who helped me add richness to the story where lacking. And my editor, Kristan of edit LLC, did a fantastic job of polishing the manuscript and making sure plot/timeline continuity and character consistency were achieved.
As long as this post has gotten, there’s more I want to say, but I’ll leave that for some other time. But let me leave you with this nugget I’ve seen Christina post before “Write Wild, Edit Wise.” Don’t let the noise stymie your creativity. Don’t be afraid to write yourself into a twisted knot. Anything that is broken or too crazy can be fixed before you hit that publish button. 🙂