I've been working on a romance novel for sometime. Mostly doing back work at this point: researching the Victorian era, reading Victorian era novels, doing some plotting, etc.
What I was doing before last week: I'd research for a bit, read a bit, and then write about 500 words a sitting. Pretty easy, eh? Yes. Yes, indeed. Very easy.
I'm loving the research part: I never paid much attention to the Victorian era, but I find myself truly intrigued. My research focuses on the 1880's as my story takes place during that time. I enjoy studying the clothes, the furniture, the housing situation, etc. I research each session for about an hour or two: even if I'm not trying to solve a particular question. I find that by immersing myself in the Victorian culture pre-writing enables me to stay focused on the era and not add in any modern references.
When I'm not writing - which is about 80% of my waking time - I read about writing or I read other writers. Years ago, some writer gave an interview about reading as much as one writes especially in the genre one writes in. That statement stuck with me and I read everything I can that's romance.
And that's why I'm not writing right now.
I was reading one of those freebie downloads to my Kindle and the ebook was "OK". Not my cup of tea, but she's pubbed and I'm not...so I made a cup of tea and started reading. And re-reading. And then re-reading some more. I ended up re-reading some portions as many as three or four times...and not because the book was that awesome-sauce.
The book sucked.
I couldn't place the era: the story started out historical, but took a modern bent with the heroine thinking of her iPod and the hero using a microwave oven. I'm still shaking my head over that.
Then there was the M/M/F sex scene that seemed to not make any sense. The sex part made sense, but the purpose of the scene escaped me completely. And why did the heroine feel the need to sit and watch the scene? Ew. Just ew.
After that, we get to the story's climax and after three readings I still don't understand how the itsy bitsy heroine destroyed the big dark villain. Not to mention that I couldn't figure out where the climax took place and who all the players were. It just seemed like every person even remotely mentioned in the novel was there (for no real reason) and I couldn't figure out where the place was: one minute everyone's in London and the next they're running down a tunnel and then they're in a huge underground chamber and then...and then...and then we have a run-on sentence in the middle of a blog post nobody will read.
After finishing (and yes, I did finish) the novel I realized the writer was interesting, but the story needed work. I spent some time pondering where she went wrong and how could I avoid this mess? I realized I needed to better plan my story so I stopped writing.
I stopped writing and began plotting. I broke down my story scene-by-scene and in each scene, I identified where it took place and who needed to participate. Suddenly I realized that two scenes were redundant and I didn't have enough material to better explain my hero's motives. I also realized that the hero's best friend was a villain in disguise. Talk about left-turn.
What I learned from reading the meh novel: what could have been a good book turned into a meh book due to a lack of plotting and planning. If the writer had only taken the time to think through her scenes, to visualize her settings, she might have written a good easy read.
So now my story is at a halt and I'm halfway done with plotting out my scenes. Pre-writing is a good thing.