Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Manuscript and the Stock Car Race by A.M.Westerling






If you’ve been following my blog posts over the past months, you’ll know I’ve been posting excerpts from my latest  manuscript, ‘Sophie’s Choice’, Book One of The Ladies of Harrington House. Well, I’m thrilled and proud to announce Sophie’s Choice was released earlier this month! You can find it at your favourite online store HERE.


I know what you’re thinking. How can there possibly be any connection between writing a manuscript for a Regency romance and running a NASCAR race? I’m sure you’re also thinking I’ve spent way too much time at the keyboard! However, like writing a book, running a race has its stages.


The first stage, the beginning of the race. The cars are bright, shiny, unscratched, not dented. The drivers are fresh, cute and full of energy. There are the driver introductions, the fanfare, the invocation, the flyover, all building up to those fabled words: “Drivers, start your engines.” The motors roar to life, fans are on their feet, the cars roll around the track for the warm-up laps until the green flag drops and the race begins!





The first few laps are amazing. The growl of the engines rumbles in your chest, the speed of the cars is dizzying, the jostling for the lead exciting. You settle in to watch, convinced the next two hundred and fifty laps are going to whiz by as fast as the cars flying past on the track. 


The first stage of a manuscript is similar. It’s your new baby. The characters are engaging, the ideas shiny and different, the plot brilliant. You sit down at the computer and your hands scoot across the keys as page after page of absolutely the most dazzling book ever appears beneath your oh so nimble fingers. The first fifty pages come together as if by magic. This is it, you think, this is the book to end all books. This is going to land me on the NYT Best Seller list. 


Then hits the middle stage. Quite frankly, the race has become rather ho hum as the excitement has worn off. It’s hot, you’re thirsty. You check the score board and realize only eighty laps are down and you have to sit there for at least another three hours.  Your favourite driver is somewhere in the middle of the pack and nowhere to be seen. The drivers settle in and peel off the laps, regularly going in for pit stops for fuel and tires and whatever minor repairs are needed. Someone might make a mistake, a tire might blow, there may be a crash. There will be caution laps. But really, there’s not much at stake as the finish line still seems so far away. All the drivers can do is circle the track, counting down the laps. 





For a manuscript, it’s the dreaded saggy middle. Now your manuscript is absolutely the worst thing you’ve ever produced. The characters have become limp, the plot has fizzled. But you need to do it. You need to have the middle because otherwise how would you get to the end? This is where you take your pit stops and take a step back to replenish the well. You may very well have your plot crashes where you’ve written yourself into a corner. Like an extra long pit stop, or even a trip behind the wall to the dreaded garage, you may need to back track and tweak something to keep the engine/muse going. But you will do it. You need to do the laps.


In the last stage, the race picks up again. The last fifty laps become racy as drivers and crews know the elusive finish line isn’t so elusive anymore. It becomes important for the drivers to stay close to the front so they can make a move to finish first. Teams become aggressive because they know the chance to win is small but in order to even have a chance, they must be positioned properly.


With a manuscript, it’s the point in the story where you realize exactly how it’s going to finish and how many scenes have to be written. You’ve done your time and worked your way through the middle. The end is in sight and enthusiastic, you’re back at the keyboard pounding away. Your excitement builds again. For me in Sophie’s Choice, it was around Chapter Fifteen, when Sophie discovered the pages in Bryce’s library that could mean he was involved in smuggling. From there I knew what had to happen to complete the book.


Finally, the race is over! The winning car crosses the finish line to the frantic flap of the checker flag. Fans cheer, the driver circles the track carrying the checkered flag and spins doughnuts in a cloud of smoke and dust before heading to the winner’s circle for a few minutes of glory and media attention. Then it’s back to work. One race is only one race in a long season. Load up the semi trailer trucks and move on to the next track.


A writer’s finish line excitement is typing “THE END”! It’s when you can stand up and do the happy dance, congratulating yourself on a job well done or treat yourself to a lovely glass of wine. It’s been a long haul but your baby is finished. You read it over a few times and marvel at your skill. It’s your sure ticket into the hearts of thousands of adoring fans. You did it. You finished the manuscript.


Now it’s time for business. Time to send it to your publisher for final edits and it’s time to start the next book. For it too, will be your new baby, shiny and fresh and ready to run the next race. I’ve already started my new baby – it’s Book Two of The Ladies of Harrington House series, Leah’s Surrender. You’ll find an excerpt in the back of Sophie’s Choice for a sneak peek of the adventures in store for Leah.



A former engineer and avid NASCAR fan, A.M.Westerling writes historical romance and is currently on the opening laps of her seventh race, er -, manuscript. You can find her on the BWL Publishing home page www.bookswelove.com, Facebook, Twitter or at www.amwesterling.com


6 comments:

  1. Great post. For me, even though I know the ending of the book, I spend a lot of time getting there. Leaving the characters is always hard

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    1. Thanks Janet, great to hear from you! Me too, it's always hard leaving the characters as one spends so much time getting to know them. I suppose that's a positive aspect of writing a series, the characters are spread across three (in my case with The Ladies of Harrington House) books. :)

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  2. What a great analogy! Nicely done and great photos.

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    1. Thank you Victoria! Needless to say, I have tons of photos from races over the years. :)

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  3. I loved your comparison with race car driving. So true!!

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