Writing Is Hard

Noelle, lucky duck, went to the long-awaited Romance Writers of America Conference and while I was following her exciting days there, I discovered people tweeting about Nora Roberts’ keyspeech. 

Writing: “it’s supposed to be hard”, and that “hard is what makes it special”, so “ride the hard”.

Be Still My Heart (excerpt) is becoming very difficult to write. If I recall correctly, the first draft of The Runaway Courtesan was so much easier to complete, perhaps because it was straight romance (albeit the revisions I had to put this story through was pretty tough). But BSMH, on the other hand, is part romance and part family drama. And I’m in a rut with both aspects of the story.

The Romance: In the eight years I’ve been writing for, I’ve finished a few manuscripts that I’ve put in the drawer, knowing it’s not publishable material. So I’ve written more than one historical romance. But never have I experienced something this strange, where the characters I created decide for themselves that they don’t suit. My two main characters, Henrietta and James, are supposed to fall in love, and yet they seem determined to remain friends. I can’t seem to view them as potential lovers.

However, Amanda and Lucas in TRC sizzled when in each others presence—they clicked so well in my mind; they belonged together. Because they suited each other so well, I had no trouble writing their story. It was a joy to ride along their emotional rollarcoaster.

This whole issue of romance in BSMH, I blame on Henrietta. She’s all too chummy with James that the thought of them even kissing puts me into a writer’s block. They’re intimate in the sense of a brother and sister, but not that of a man and woman.

The Family drama: This aspect of the story is pretty dark, filled with contempt and rivalry, and I’m finding difficulty pacing it. I need to pace all the angsty events just right so that it allows for some subtlety, but if I have too much occur at once, it borders into melodrama. But in order to pace I need to write linking scenes that aren’t too thrilling to write. There was also legal aspects in this family drama that required information I couldn’t find until I discovered a few passages in Vanity Fair that offered some great insight about the process behind stripping a son of his inheritance (oup, gave a bit of the story away).

Writing a family drama also steps out of my comfort zone. I’m used to focusing mainly on the two main characters and breezing through the lives of the minor characters (it’s usually in the revisions that I give the secondary characters more attention). But this is a family drama where my focus must be divided among a whole range of characters—a bitter Duke who is dying, the son with revenge on his heart, a greedy nephew planning a conspiracy, and a girl who becomes the candlelight in their darkened world.

I’ve finished the first half of the story, which wasn’t so hard. It’s the last part of my story that I’m struggling with. I have pages and pages of plotting. The direction this story will take is so darn difficult that I don’t know if I’ll be able to execute it properly. Will I succeed? Or will I give up on this story halfway from exhaustion? We’ll see, my friends.


Could anyone design a thumbnail/banner for Be Still My Heart?
I’ll use all submitted to me for each post (june.hur@hotmail.com) regarding this novel.

Summary: While Henrietta Wilson, a penniless young woman, might not be able to change the course of civilization, her unwavering devotion to the wealthy and powerful Lord Carlyle does not go unmarked in his life’s history. Ever since she kept him from falling into the self-dug pit of destruction, she became the keeper of his heart.


By sarah

29 thoughts on “Writing Is Hard

  1. June–the story sounds incredible. Really, really intriguing. And I imagine that’s why it’s so hard! The last thing I wrote was simple compared to what I’m writing now–it’s been a struggle to plot and pace it correctly, to give away the right thing at the right time. But I feel much more triumph every time I develop a scene to where it needs to be, because getting there was harder, but the scene itself is more satisfying. Such a thing as a plot twist is very difficult for me–I have so much more appreciation for writers who throw them at you without so much as a bat of eye, it seems! Of course, after writing several into a piece, I now know how much they must have sweated to make them feel so effortless.

    At least, I think it’s coming along–I’ll need to get readers’ input to see if it actually works or if it’s all in my head! 🙂 Any volunteers…? LOL.

    Best wishes as you push through into that complicated second half! Can’t wait to see what you come up with…


    • You KNOW I’ll offer to read any of your work. Just send a few chapters at a time to me when you want.

      I agree with you about plot twists. It happens so quickly in a book, so swiftly, that the reader would think nothing of the sweat and blood the author poured over to come up with it, and to make it actually work! It’s like any technology. We don’t think of what went behind its creation to make it run so well.


  2. June, I completely hear your dilemma about your characters taking over the story: do you feel good that you sketched two characters that are very strong, or do you resent them for hindering the progress of ‘your’ story?

    Anyway, it sounds like such an interesting and involved story that I’m sure you’ll take exactly where it needs to go :).


    • I really do feel both ways. I like having created strong characters, but the way that they are, I can’t see them as lovebirds. What I’ not used to is a kind-natured, naive heroine. After all, for three years I was working with a woman who worked in a brothel…. so yes, this change in character is making it difficult for me to keep under my control


  3. June, try and go easy on yourself. Look towards finishing the first draft of BSMH and let yourself tackle that goal. First drafts are ALWAYS rough (at least in my experience) and personally I find a great deal of relief and liberation in that fact. I know many, many more drafts lay ahead, and each one tackles different layers of the story.

    I know it can seem so daunting in the early stages (I’m there myself with my current WIP!) but be assured that it WILL get there and that rarely do all the pieces comes together all at once.


    • Thank you so much for this comment! It has helped me out a lot. Today, while I was looking through my pags of plotting, I decided to cut down to the major scenes and just write those out. Then, when I get a better grasp of the story, I’ll add in the fillers. You’re so right. It’s JUST the first draft!!!! Must relax……. hehe

      And good luck with your WIP!!!! I wonder…. will writing a book ever get any easier?


  4. Oh June, I wish I could help you somehow, but I’m afraid I can only tell you to keep trying, maybe giving a break from BSMH and come back to it latter. Good Luck!


    • I was thinking about giving BSMH a break. The problem is…I’m really worrie that if I leave it i’ll lose inspiration and never be able to finish it. That’s why I putting so much pressure on myself with this story!! eeeeek.


  5. I can relate to you about the many “aspect-ed” (not a word, I know) story. I have political, fantstical and sociological things to consider besides the budding relationship between my two protoganists. It’s just so darn difficult to write..but I intend to “ride the hard” (that’s what she said, haha).

    You’re on you second part of the story! Congrats! You write so efficiently. I’m jealous. Anyway, I think you are perfectly capable of accomplishing what you want out of your novel. I remember well the first fictionpress version of TRC – all the little subplots and twists and stuff – little me, I was awed at your intricacy.

    Anyway, I’m going to the Brisbane Writer’s Festival in September – I’ll be attending a work shop that has to do with plotting and structuring your novel, headed by Tony Wilson. Only 16 people can go to this! It’s weird because this is only the writerly thing I have done in a while.. except write of course. This is a spot of random.


    • Is it weird that I’m replying to myself??

      But, but! I should be sleeping or doing some uni work but I just finished reading chapter 8 and can I say, always gets to me…love love love love love!

      Please ignore my punctuation. It is terrible.


      • Oh, just saw that latter comment of yours.

        Yay I’m glad you liked CH8. That’s the one where Amanda and Lucas have their epic clash at night, ain’t it? When he comes back from his carousing? hahaha. I was editing that scene just today. I wanted to lengthen the ending moment a bit more.


    • I’m actually surprised myself at how much I’ve written in the past several weeks….ME…Me who feared I’d never write again.

      This is my first time with a many “aspect-ed” story (it’s a new word from now out, it’s origin from the Kim-ian language…haha?). And it’s darn difficult for me too, so I totally feel your pain. We will suffer together, my friend.

      Oh! Brisbane Writer’s festival….why does it sound so familiar….. I’m guessing it’s held in Australia, right? I’ve actually never been to anything writerly…except my school writing club…but…it’s not professionally run. Anyway, share your experience with us (ME!) when you get back! If you learn of any secrets on how to write a good plot/character/etc.,….. *wiggles brow*


  6. I’m entering the same dilemma, June! The second half is so much harder than the first.

    Just remember that your characters aren’t really alive. You can make them do anything you want. If it doesn’t feel natural, try switching into analytical/outline mode. Tough to do in the middle of a write, but if you can look at the characters analytically and figure out why they aren’t feeling ‘chemistry,’ it’s totally within your power to fix it.

    Maybe leave yourself a big note in the draft that the chemistry is off, and proceed from that point, writing as though the chemistry is present? Let your imagination bend them until it works. The characters might change as you go (history/personality), but you can smooth it out in the rewrite, as long as you’ve marked the ‘change’ point.

    I hate all those unfinished threads, though. Makes me crazy, and I understand the frustration.

    Best of luck with it. 🙂

    – Corra


    • You are, of course, very very correct. No matter what we writers say…..the characters aren’t alive. At all. So we have total control. With some effort, hopefully I’ll be able to get out of this rut.

      I wish you the best of luck with the latter half of your story! I think it’s so difficult because it’s when all the conflicts (conflicts are easy to create…) have to be resolved. And we also know that the end of the story is what will leave the final impression upon readers…


  7. “This whole issue of romance in BSMH, I blame on Henrietta. She’s all too chummy with James that the thought of them even kissing puts me into a writer’s block.”
    Haha we alwaaaays blame the characters! 🙂
    I can relate to this June- when I was writing ‘Closed eyes, Change of heart’ I never wanted Mesmer (my main character) to solve her issues with her mother. But she even went to her mother’s door and said she wanted to forgive her. I like characters with strong wills 🙂
    They are difficult to write but once you do, their story sticks in reader’s mind, and stays with them long after they close the book.


    • I also love a character with strong wills. And I’m glad your character decided to forgive her mother–forgiveness, I believe, is such an important theme in life that needs to be emphasized and encouraged.

      I also know what you mean in that the most difficult thing to write ends up sticking in your head! It’s likely because we put the most effort into it…and so the reward (getting out of that rut) is like….the sweetest of rewards


  8. I. Hate. Writing. Linking. Scenes. (except I call them fillers). They are both a chore and a bore, but they have to be there else the reader thinks things happen to fast, the story becomes unbelieveable and agents reject you. Sigh. Writing is hard. lol

    And by the way, June you and I are two pees in a pod. I also have difficulty with the minor character aspect. I’ll brush right over them during a first draft and then realize they need so much more attention and practically turn them into major characters! Oh dear.

    And as far as the romance goes … it could turn one of two ways. You could have a major breakthrough and Henrietta and James could really really love it each other after this one fantastic scene. Or they could wind up like the end of PS I Love You where she and the other guy she almost ends up with decide to jsut be friends. The good thing about not writing straight romance is that with the addition of a great deal of family drama, the whole novel does not have to depend on the maybe-lovebirds. There are other aspects driving the story.


    • I. Hate. Fillers. Too. They are such a drag to write…and yet…they mustn’t be a drag, because our boredom with that scene will reflect in our writing…and yet…it’s boring to write…so we’re in this frustrating dilemma. Arg!

      “The good thing about not writing straight romance is that with the addition of a great deal of family drama, the whole novel does not have to depend on the maybe-lovebirds. There are other aspects driving the story.”

      Oh wow, that was a wonderful comment.


  9. I have a few discarded manuscripts in my drawer as well. I agree with Erika to just finish this first draft as best you can. Then, decide its fate…you may find things picked up at the end. Good luck!


    • I don’t think I’ll ever return to those manuscripts I’ve discarded in the past, haha. The one I’m currently working on is one I’m determined to work with. So yes, I will indeed to my best to finish off the first draft! I think it’s mainly because I feel pressured to finish the draft by the end of this month. I need to remind myself to relaxxx


  10. I love the sound of your story. And I know what you mean about the discarded manuscripts. I sometimes feel guilty for wasting so much paper 😦
    Sorry I can’t help you with the thumbnail banner. It took me over a week to work out how to do widgets and post awards. Ditto for mastering links.
    Fortunately there are so many smart, clever, designer bloggers out there. You’re bound to get a great one.


    • “I sometimes feel guilty for wasting so much paper” Do you write on paper? Or do you mean you printed it out…?

      I’m glad you like the premise of my story! Woohoo!


  11. Hope I don’t get blackballed for mentioning movies, but often when I just can’t work up the steam to fix a plot problem I turn to favorite movies. Novels take too long to read and eat up precious writing time–and besides, most are made from novels anyway! The friend thing sounds like a reasonably easy fix (don’t stone me, yet!); get into the skin, heads and hearts of your chars. I’m assuming they are both reasonably attractive people. And then (I don’t know if other writers do this, so…) what would make YOU see James in a new light? What would make your heart beat a little faster, make your upper lip sweat? A touch, a character insight? Whatever it is, incorporate it and try different scenes. Also getting them out of their comfort zones helps, too. Put them in a tense, chaotic, whatever situation and see how they have to relate.
    You may have already done all the above and have it worked out by now–I hope! Anyway, sounds like you’re in the murderous middle, and in my experience (one whole completed novel ms–LOL) the last third goes much faster.
    Enjoyed all the comments :-).


    • You won’t get blackballed at all! I think movies are tremendous help as well. A single scene can get a whole wave of inspiration rushing through me. Problem is, I haven’t come across any good love stories of late. It seems I’ve watched all the major ones.

      I loved the suggestions you offered, especially the bit about how I could place them in a situation that’s out of their comfort zone. Throw in some tense emotions. And I’m sure I can make them hyper aware of each other and stir up some romantic feelings in them.

      Thanks for dropping by!


  12. I got to second-thinking my comments earlier (I’m a writer so second-thinking is my life 🙂 ) and I was afraid I sounded like it would be snap and I know from experience it’s not. at. all. I’m so glad you didn’t take it that way. Also, I kind of sounded like reading takes too much time so I just watch movies…NOT true! I’m a voracious reader, and movies are a true indulgence. I only meant in the throes of difficult scene I need to write I sometimes resort to the “shortcut”. Let me know how you work it out! Happy writing.


    • It never crossed my mind that you *wouldn’t* be a voracious reader, haha. “…in the throes of difficult scene I need to write I sometimes resort to the “shortcut”. I agree 100% with you. when I’m faced with a difficult scene, it would take me longer to read the right book, get through it all, in order to find inspiration. Movies, on the other hand, inspiration can be found within the spand on 2-ish hours.

      I’ll be sure to keep you updated about this iffy romance I’m trying to work out!


  13. When I have a character “just doesn’t work”, and they seem a hindrance to the plot, it usually happens because of one thing…

    Their name.

    The name is the beginning and best defining point of a character’s existence. The main character from my third book had a name that I REALLY liked, because the name meant so much to me and my own personality, that it got in the way of his development as his own self. I managed to fenagle a way to give him a snappier name that suited him better AND kept the name that I gave him in the background. In my head, I still call him the first name, but it has allowed him to grow as a character.

    Also, creating histories and dramatic entanglements between characters always helps. Think—Dynasty!


    • Wow, this was a very unexpected advice. But a very wise one indeed. A name does say a lot about my character. And with the name “Henrietta” I think of a tomboy, rather than some smexy lady. Maybe that’s why I’m having trouble making Henrietta and James melt into each others arms…..


  14. Thanks! Try playing around with several names and write just extra scenes on the side between James and the woman. Try using the name Scarlett, or Audrey, or any name that you like. It may surprise you how different the character will act. 🙂


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