Going back to the original topic for this week of what I try to achieve: for me, it’s not just memorable characters, but the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve created the very best story I can.
Once the really hard work (for me anyway) of actually creating the plot with its conflicts, high and lows, is over, I enjoy concentrating on the detail. When I first start writing the story, my characters are shadowy and undeveloped. By the time I finish the first draft, I know them inside out. I can see and hear them, I feel their happiness and despair, I empathise with my heroine and I’ve fallen in love with my hero. Now I have to find the right words to show exactly what they are experiencing (and check out the over-used words, of course!). I also have to ensure that the story flows - hence my current work on my WIP which has involved changing some events around and creating more interaction between hero and heroine, rather than involving secondary characters too much.
I once read that the words ‘That’ll do’ should never be used by a writer, and I agree. Instead, the writer should say be able to say ‘I’ve worked damned hard to achieve the very best I can produce.’
And yes, I also want to be published. Not for any glory or money though. Even in my Mills and Boon/Harlequin heyday in the 60’s and 70’s, I didn’t earn anywhere near enough money to allow me to retire from my real-time work (although the six-monthly fairly large cheques were very welcome, of course!). My sole reason for wanting to be published is to have the approval of my writing by a professional editor. Something I wouldn’t have if I self-published.
Having said that, when I was writing my fan-fiction stories and ‘publishing’ them on a West Wing yahoo group and then online fan-fiction sites, it was gratifying to get a lot of positive comments from readers. Not just the friends in the yahoo group, but total strangers who read my stories on the two fan-fic sites where I published them. To get a message that someone has added my story, or me as an author, to their ‘favourite’ list is always a big boost to my morale! I even got a couple in the last two days, so people are still reading my stories and enjoying them. Which leads me on to:
What do I want to achieve for my readers?
Simply to enjoy my story - that’s enough for me!
Writing a best-seller and making pots of money so that I could buy one of those very nice houses I saw at the beautiful Zuma Beach in California or maybe a cottage on the west coast of Ireland would be good, but I have no illusions about that ever happening. Anyway, I’m happy enough here in my small house!
In the early 70’s, one of my novels was serialised in about 10 parts in a women’s magazine here. About three years later, I happened to be talking to someone who said she bought that magazine each week. So I just ‘happened’ to mention (like you do!) that my story had been in the magazine. She asked what it was about, I told her it was set in the Lake District, and she said ‘Oh yes, I remember that one, it was a great story.” And I knew from what she went on to say that she really did remember it. Maybe the fact that I can recall that small incident (from over 30 years ago) shows how much it meant to me. For that person, at least, my story had been memorable. What more can I ask?