A good writer is an avid reader by necessity. For emerging writers, models demonstrate the conventions of the particular form as well as appropriate tone, organization, sentence structure, and vocabulary. Models benefit more seasoned writers as well. Since I began writing fiction, I read fiction differently. I notice character development, point of view, the placement of chapter breaks, and I learn from them.
Recently, I've read several good books in my two preferred genres, paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Not only were these books good reads, but they drove home the problem with my abandoned work in progress. I tried to write an urban fantasy sequel to a paranormal romance. The result is a major plot cohesion problem.
I read JR Ward's Covet and Lara Adrian's Ashes of Midnight, both paranormal romances. Last night, I finished Keri Arthur's Bound to Shadows, an urban fantasy. All three books are a lot of fun, (I especially loved JR Ward's book. She might be my new favorite author.) and all three are part of ongoing series. The major difference is that the two paranormal romances focus on new couples within the larger series. They face obstacles, solve mysteries, and find their happily ever after. The urban fantasy centers around the same female heroine in all the books in the series. There is romance and mystery, but no happily ever after. In fact, urban fantasy tends to throw a major monkey wrench into the romantic works to keep the heroine edgy and never-quite-happy.
Sapphire Sins (officially confirmed in RWA's Golden Heart Contest) is a paranormal romance...obstacles, mystery, happily ever after. The sequel I've fought with for over a year takes the same hero and heroine and challenges their happily ever after. It felt like a good plan when I started. I knew these characters. I liked them. I wanted to keep hanging out with them. The problem with challenging happily ever after is that once it's lost, it's hard to find your way back. Sometimes, there isn't a way back. Urban fantasy is okay with that. Heroines can be broken at the end of a book as long as the bad guy is defeated. As much as I enjoy reading it, I'm not ready to write it. I never meant to break my heroine, but I wrote myself into a corner. To get out of it, I betrayed my characters.
I've been lost in the trees. I knew I had a cohesion problem, but I haven't been able to get to the bottom of it. My reading these last few weeks has helped me see the forest. I can actually pinpoint the exact place in the text I went wrong. Now I have roughly 90,000 words I don't know what to do with. Being the queen of avoidance, I've set those words aside and started writing new ones. New characters, new world, new plot...a romance. As much as I love the dark, I need the promise of the light at the end.