The Perils of Heroines and Due Dates

Blogging about writing today. I am ¾ finished with my latest book, DESPERATE HEARTS, and now I can’t decide what will happen next – plus there about 3 different ways this story could end. I have a hundred other things to do this holiday season, so too many distractions. I will never time a due date that is close to the holidays again. And right after the holidays my husband and I head west for several weeks, so I have no choice but to get this book done SOON. Actually, it’s due now, but publishers usually don’t mind if an author takes a couple of extra weeks to turn in a book. They just don’t want it to take a couple of extra MONTHS.

The basic plot of DESPERATE HEARTS, which takes place in the little gold town of Alder, Montana in the 1860’s, is a woman running from a powerful, rich man who has the ability to send her to prison for something HE did. Her stagecoach is attacked by thieves, and along comes lawman/vigilante, Mitch Brady, who not only rescues the heroine, but decides it’s his job to look out for her after that. She’s a greenhorn from New York City and is now thrown into a wild, unruly, rugged lifestyle with which she is totally unfamiliar. Of course, the man she’s running from (NOT a husband or boyfriend, by the way) will eventually find her in Alder, and therein lies my decision of what to do about it and end the story.

What happens when I am writing a new book is that it often takes to just about this point in the story for me to suddenly get totally involved with and fall in love with the hero. The heroin’s role is easy because most romances are based around the drama/troubles/dangers a female character is experiencing, and being a woman myself, it’s easier for me to identify with what the heroine is feeling and thinking. Then along comes the hero, usually someone a bit dangerous with an unknown past, who helps in some way and, of course, they fall in love. Writing the love scenes is the fun part!! But because even I don’t know exactly where this guy is coming from at first, the hero’s back story kind of “develops” as I write. I love not knowing much about my characters when I start a book. I often don’t even know what will happen (hate outlines/synopses!) I’d rather let the story unfold all on its own. I usually always know how it will end. I just don’t always know how I will get to that point! That way the story is a bit unpredictable, which you want it to be for readers, too … i.e. if I don’t know what’s going to happen and I want to keep writing to SEE what will happen – then my readers will keep READING to see what happens!

Back to my problem – making up my mind what will happen in the next seven or eight chapters and choosing which ending to use. It gets easier here because now I am in love with the hero, and I know my heroine much better, so they are now real to me and when that happens I can write like a fiend. There is, of course, a “bad guy” who has to get his due – but will the hero take care of that? Maybe it should be the heroine. She’s the one who truly wants this bad guy gone from her life – and I don’t like the standard “hero rescues heroine” storyline. I like strong women who find a way to rise above their situation, maybe with the hero’s help in the way of emotional support – and maybe because she knows he has her back if she fails – but in the long run, I like her to be the one to solve her own problems.

Well, I guess I’ve answered my own question in one respect, because as I write this I realize now that it’s the heroine who will be the one to actually take care of the bad guy – but I have to do it in some way that doesn’t take away from the hero’s strength and expertise. I guess all of you will just have to wait and read the book next summer to decide if I ended it the right way!! Remember, it’s called DESPERATE HEARTS (unless, of course, the publisher – Sourcebooks – changes the title on me!)