Trope-a-dope

Untitled design (3)Most romance novels are are centered around popular tropes. This was news to me when I started working on the North Pole series. It makes sense, really. If you’re someone who loves reading about cowboys falling in love, there’s a whole category of books just waiting for you.

Someone once sent me a list of popular tropes, and I even bought a book that’s just a list of tropes, for instance:

Feisty old ladies

Frost fairs (What the…?)

Friends with benefits 

And those are just from the Fs.

When I decided to start pitching a series for August, Entangled Publishing’s Gen-X imprint, I first consulted my list of tropes.

Then I started combining them to see what developed:

What if two people are FORCED TOGETHER in a HAUNTED HOUSE and one of them is BILLIONAIRE?

(This was not one of my actual ideas, but go forth and write, if it inspires you.)

I came up with three ideas and fleshed each of them out in pretty detailed synopses. (I love writing synopses. I could do it all day. It’s like putting together a puzzle. Reader, this is what I do FOR FUN.)

All three were rejected.

They liked two of my ideas–with reservations–but ix-nayed the third all together.

I went (happily) back to the synopsis drawing board. I reworked the two maybes. But then I got a little stuck (and probably tired and cranky) about the third.

I still liked it; WHY DIDN’T THEY?

Probably (and I say this not having reread this synopsis in about a year) because it was garbage.

So, I, in a MOOD, decided to peruse the trope list and pick out the most unsavory, unsexy, un-EVERYTHING trope I could find and come up with an idea.

I’D SHOW THEM!

What would I show them? I don’t know. I also wanted to challenge myself–like I said, synopses are my jigsaw puzzles.

So, I kept two of my original tropes–bachelorette auction and one-night stand–and added a third–accidental pregnancy.

Ew.

As a romance reader, my least favorite trope of all is “pregnant for you,” where the couple’s love is SO POTENT that the woman gets knocked up, like, *snap.* For me, this comes a few personal places: 1) I dealt with infertility for years, so the whole magic sperm thing still stings a bit, and 2) There’s just not a lot sexy about being pregnant or having a baby. You say, “Our love is so powerful we can create beautiful, magical life!” I say, “Welcome to a life of dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and picking Legos out of your feet.”

But as I started working on the outline for KNOCKED-UP CINDERELLA, I started to see how I could make this work for me. It’s not about a woman getting pregnant “for a man.” It’s about two people getting drunk, dancing close, and whoopsie-daisy. It’s about two independent professional adults having to slow down and figure out how to let not one, but TWO new people into their busy lives. It’s about a pair of individuals who’d only had to think about themselves since college, suddenly having to consider someone else’s feeling and opinions.

It’s also about swanky galas and ball gowns.

I think therein lies the real truth: Any trope can be saved by the prospect of a fancy dress.

 

A girl and her notebook

IMG_1003It’s school supply time, and I bought a notebook.

A sparkly pink notebook from Target.

There is truly nothing like an empty notebook–all those pages, waiting to be filled. It’s college-ruled hope. It’s a world of possibility, neatly bound by strong, black tape.

WHAT, PRAY TELL, WOULD I USE IT FOR?

On the first page, I wrote “Book Ideas.” I jotted down five. Like, literally five five-word descriptions.

On the second page, “Blog Post Ideas.” That page is currently empty.

Instead of writing this notebook off as a bust (as I normally would’ve done), two-and-a-half weeks ago I flipped to the back page, wrote down my weight and measurements and started keeping track of however I felt that day–fitness, food, or mindset-wise.

I started tracking how many steps I logged each day. During the first week, I realized I’d gotten lax about hitting my 10k daily goal, so I made that my focus.

The second week, I hit a few emotionally blue days. Instead of running for the chips and/or cookies and/or hurling my notebook into the garbage, I wrote through those days. I told my notebook how I felt and why I was feeling that way. Instead of eating my feelings I wrote them down.

Through my little journaling exercise, I’ve realized I tend to go off plan on the weekends (who doesn’t?), I eat when I’m stressed and procrastinating (i.e. about 87% of my life), and I love to sabotage myself withe salty foods the day before weigh-in. But I keep writing, learning, and readjusting.

How many pound have I lost during this little experiment so far? +.8

Yeah. I’ve gained weight.

But I’ve also been able to look back at my notebook to figure out why I’ve gained weight. I’m realistic about what I’ve done. I don’t yell, “Khaaaan!” at the universe without holding myself accountable for my own actions (or inaction, sometimes).

Weight loss, like publishing, can feel like watching paint dry. Nothing ever happens on your time table. It’s a lot of trial and error. A lot of hard choices you can only hope will pan out. In both, there’s some luck involved–but you can’t rely on that.

You do everything in your power, write the best book you can produce, workshop the hell out of a query, edit that book into a shiny diamond, market it to the masses by following all the rules.

And…you get rejection after rejection, or your editor tells you this wasn’t what she wanted, or your book gets horrible reviews and/or flops, sales-wise.

At that point, you can chuck it all in the garbage and give up, or you can take an honest look at what you’ve done and reassess. Maybe you could’ve used a critique partner, maybe your first five pages aren’t so great, maybe you, introverted one, actually need to suck it up and network–a prospect that sends me diving right for the chips, honestly.

Instead of saying “I can’t,” blaming the universe, and giving up, you can be proactive, put in the work, and figure out how you can do better next time.

It’s why God created sparkly notebooks from Target.

Rebranding

anyboybutyou500I suppose I’m going through a rebranding phase right now, which is, when I stop to think about it, not so new for me.

In college, when I decided I no longer wanted to study opera, I rebranded myself as a Latin teacher.

When I fell into writing about American Idol, I rebranded as a TV blogger.

After I had my son, I rebranded as a stay-at-home mom (who wrote for fun…and a little money).

Throughout my life, I’ve been overweight, at a healthy weight (for me), then back to a little more overweight (thank you, current political climate), and now I’m working toward my goal again.

I’ve rebranded from someone who hated exercise to someone who NEEDS it (and enjoys it).

I morphed from a picky eater into someone who will cook and eat anything–except coconuts. Unless they’re the Trader Joe’s coconut strips.

I’ve gone from disorganized slob to marginally less slob-like and a little more organized.

I was a dog owner, but, sadly, now I’m not.

I swung from not caring about politics to (some might say) caring too much.

This is where I’ve always gotten stuck with the whole branding thing. I’m a bit of a magpie, taste-wise, and I’m constantly changing and evolving as both a person and a writer.

But aren’t we all? Isn’t that what life is? #deepthoughts

When I sat down to think about my new writing adventure–shifting from writing for young adults to a more mature audience–I wondered what this meant for my “brand,” how this move might affect my readers.

I focused on what hasn’t changed. The answer is: Not a lot.

If you liked THE SOUND OF US, you’ll like ANY BOY BUT YOU. If you liked ABBY, you’ll dig KNOCKED-UP CINDERELLA.

My books still focus on light romantic situations with (I hope) a comedic voice. My characters are still nerdy nerds who probably make too many pop culture references.

There’s just, like, maybe a tad more boning in the new book.

But not so much that’s it’s jarring.

I’m saving the really raunchy stuff for the next novel.