When Good Stories Go Bad


I’ve spent the past few weeks working on a novella that I’d been planning for a while now. Two dance instructors who work together teaching a West Coast Swing class fall in love. I started writing it planning to have it submitted to one of my publishers by the end of August.

The idea was pretty good, I thought. Romantic. My husband, who is a former West Coast Swing instructor and competitor himself (hence my choice of that dance style for the story) is fond of the quote “Dancing is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire”, and that and the Toby Keith song “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This,” which is about dancing, at least in part, served as my inspiration for the story.

Except those apparently weren’t enough inspiration, and in my quest for an actual plot beyond “Two dance instructors fall in love” I went off on a tangent that’s kept me working on the thing a full week after I planned to have the first draft finished.

Unfortunately, that isn’t because the tangent led to the story being longer than expected. It’s because it led to a story that I really, really don’t like.

The heroine went from being strong and confident to being completely neurotic and breaking down in tears over the loss, a year earlier, of the friend who introduced her to West Coast Swing and partnered her in competitions. The hero went from being sexy and sensitive to springing on the heroine that he wanted her to partner him in a charity dance event–only five days before the event! And the heroine’s male roommate, a ballet dancer, went from being a strong, understanding friend to swiping the heroine’s phone so he could call the hero and tell him to “be good to her.”

Um, yeah… that’s a whole lot of WTFness…

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me with a story. When I was writing the first draft of my novella Deep Down, I got so sick and tired of Courtney whining about being homesick and Tanner being an idiot about Courtney that I scrapped 90 manuscript pages (originally, it would have ended up novel-length instead of novella) and started from scratch. And ended up with a decent story that Siren Publishing liked enough to publish.

My dance story can be fixed. I need to take a closer look at the characters and the plot, and change some things around. I even have a pretty good idea of how to change it into a better story. It’s going to take time, and I may not make the deadline I’d planned for it, but I’d rather miss a deadline than submit a bad story.

And since it’s a novella, I won’t have to delete 90 pages… because I haven’t written that many.

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