By now I pretty much have a book that is technically correct, with all the pieces in the right place, and the external events and internal growth and change happening in a logical manner, but it doesn’t have that sparkle yet. It’s there, but not there. It’s time to read it aloud, and time to find a friend or two to read it—critique partners are best for this—who will tell you if you’ve written something that doesn’t make sense or is full of glaring errors. Because by now I’ve read the manuscript so many times that I see what I think I wrote, or what I wanted to write, but in a lot of cases, not what’s really there. Maybe I cut a scene that didn’t work, and later on make reference to it, but it’s gone. It’s still in my mind, so I know what happened, but didn’t make it to the page, so the reader has no idea what happened. Those are the kind of things critique partners are great at pointing out.
So I’ll ship it off to a critique partner or two, and then get to work at what I call fine-tuning the manuscript. Making sure I’ve touched on the five senses in each scene. Adding in a breeze wafting through the open window, and the scent of jasmine on the wind. Draw out the experience of eating a piece of chocolate or an ice cream cone, exploring the sense of taste. Turn a sunset into a fiery ball of red in the sky to reflect the heroine’s mood, or create a deep purple sky to do the same. Make sure the weather and environment on the outside match what is happening to the characters inside. And touch…this is the part where you magnify every look, every touch, every nuance of falling in love. The part where your characters really come alive, as they interact with each other and their surroundings and become more aware of how beautiful the world they inhabit is. They’re in love. Everything looks brighter, feels softer, more sensual and even sexual, depending on the tone of the scene or story.
This is where you add that sexual tension, that heat, that slow burning fire that ends up consuming your characters. This is where you make that fire hotter and hotter until your characters have no choice but to give in to it, or feel like they are going to die from desire.
And because by now you know your conflict, your plot, how your story ends, who has the most at stake in each scene, what their emotions are and what they do externally to express those emotions, where those emotions come from in their backgrounds and why—it’s like putting icing on a very delicious cake. A little here, a lot there, using varying degrees of sweetness and color, reading it aloud again, tasting it on your tongue…realizing you’ve done the best job you can of creating a story that makes you laugh and cry and get furious and frustrated in all the right places…
Finally comes the moment when you know the work of your heart is done. All you can do is send it out and hope someone else will love it, and the characters who tell what has by now become their story, not yours, as much as you do. I’ve been blessed beyond belief by the response to my first two books, Thin Ice and Jake’s Return. I’m hoping readers will enjoy Ashton’s Secret just as much.
So thank you for reading. Without readers like you, writers would have no way of knowing if what we’re doing, if all the blood and sweat and tears we put into crafting our stories, creating our characters, makes sense to anyone but ourselves :-). It’s an honor to be read by you, and an honor to have been able to share the process that I use to write books I hope will touch the lives of my readers as much as they have touched my own.