For years after Avon FanLit I struggled to finish a novel. At a romance conference in Portland, Oregon I told Courtney Milan, Darcy Burke, and Emma Locke about my latest historical novel and they all gave me the “we’ve heard this one before” look. Courtney said, “Yeah, but are you going to finish this one? You’d better…or ELSE!”
I never finished that book.
Over the years, the characters in my unfinished books mutinied. They stole into my head at night. “When will I have my happy ending?” they asked, confusion etching their vague, unformed features. “When will you tell my story?”
Reader, I finally finished a book, and it’s going to be published by Avon. I wake up every day now with a wide smile and a sense of purpose. So what changed? What tricks finally worked?
I won’t sugarcoat anything. Of course I spent hours and days and nights sitting in a chair clacking away at my laptop like the fate of the universe hinged on me completing that novel. But what made me sit down in that chair and begin typing? Here’s my trick.
I got the idea from Alasitas, the Bolivian festival of miniatures. Alasitas is a festival revering Ekeko, the “god of abundance.” My husband and I visited the festival and saw people buying miniature babies, cars, diplomas, cell phones, stacks of money–anything their hearts desired. Afterward, they took their purchases to be blessed by an Andean priest – or yatiri – with incense and flower petals. Our Bolivian guide told us that if we truly believed, our wishes would come true.
I created a miniature version of my Golden Heart© book. I shamelessly stole the delectable art from Tessa Dare’s fabulous A WEEK TO BE WICKED, photoshopped my name and title over it, and left the Avon Books logo, because Avon is my dream publisher. In January, before I knew I’d finalled in the contest, we visited the festival and I took my miniature book to be blessed. I placed it on an altar in my entryway and lit a candle in front of it. Every evening, after work, when I sat down to write, I kept that candle lit. I never let it go out while I was writing. That little book began to feel like it could become a reality. Because it wasn’t only on my hard drive, it was there, on that altar.
My dream rendered concrete.
I also created a storyboard with photos and descriptions of my main characters, locations, themes, and plot points. This helped as well because anytime I felt discouraged, I looked at that storyboard and all the fun, sexy characters, and began to believe that I could finish it this time. I could bring those characters fully to life. So they wouldn’t haunt my nights, demanding their happy ending.
Those are some of the tricks I used.
Are there unfinished manuscripts under your bed? Have you found a trick that works?