Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Today my guest is Romance writer, Judi Fennell, author of In Over Her Head, the first in the Mer-Trilogy, available June 1, 2009.

Reality comes crashing down along with the high of a publishing contract when deadlines arrive fast and furious, life intervenes, holidays show up sooner than they should, and the dang story doesn't want to be written.

Normally when I write a story, I fashion it. I picture the setting, get a feel for where the story is going, and then let the characters out of the starting gate. Add a bit here, tweak this, move that, write the words.

Until the most recent one—the first story written to deadline, under contract.

I liken the writing of this story to a sculptor who tries to bring the piece out of a block of marble. It's in there and up to him/her to bring it forth, as opposed to a builder who crafts the piece.

This story would not let me write it. This story wanted to emerge. I knew the middle, and fashioned the ending, but that beginning... I think I have two dozen different starts-no exaggeration.

Where to start, how much the reader needs, what is the story... questions I never had to deal with before. In other stories, the beginning was always there. The black moment was there. The character arcs were there.

This time?


This time, I had the middle of the story. No sagging middle for this baby—which is great, as sagging middles can be problematic. But the beginning, where you meet the characters, like them, find something about them to root for...I had nothing.

Well, I had something—it just wasn't the right something. It was everything I needed to know and none of what the reader needed.

So, like a sculptor, I pared it down, layer by layer, rounding the curves, smoothing the edges, and, slowly (slower than I liked), the piece emerge, the story unfolded.

And became the piece of art I knew was in there.

Judi Fennell
In Over Her Head, Wild Blue Under, & Catch of a Lifetime
Published by Sourcebooks

Win a Romantic Get Away
Contest details found at:


Ken Coffman said...

Everytime the dead spot happens, there is always a nagging feeling that its all over. Like I've written my last word and my writing career is over before it started. However, at this point I know to ride it out. Work on editing, reading or daydreaming. The story will inevitably show itself. I haven't had a writing deadline and I don't think I want one. Ha!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Judi,

Writing under contract is fabulous and frightening-congrats! I like your analogy. It is like pulling it from a block of stone.

Sia, thanks for hosting.

Carolyn Matkowsky said...


Great blog. I know what you mean. I've not written under deadline yet, but some of my stories wrote themselves and others just wanted to make me work really hard. I usually know the beginning and end, but sometimes the journey to get from start to finish is a bumpy road. I can't wait to read your book.

Carolyn Matkowsky/Cara Marsi

ML said...

Leaving a blanket since Sia said we can't leave you naked in the cold.

carlakempert said...

It's the deadline jinx. A friend of mine once told me my problem with writing is that I'll sit down in front of the computer, put on my official "writer hat" and start writing, when what I really needed to do was just start telling a story. Ever since then, the stories flow. At least, I think they do. I've never had to do battle with a deadline, but it sounds like an interesting challenge. I'll have to try it some time. *grin*

Can't wait for Reel and Erika to "surface" in June, Judi! Congrats!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Thank you for stopping by. I'm amazed at how hard Judi works on her books. She always manages to make look effortless. Her article highlighted that it's never effortless and regardless of whether we are published or not, we all have those moments of frustration.

Ken, I've had a few moments like that myself. Experience does teach you it will come but there are those moments...I've written to deadline, not for a book, but plenty of other things. the pressure changes with a deadline.

Mike, thanks so much for bringing her a blanket, lolol! I'm sure Judi will appreciate it...

McMama said...

Sia and Judi,

Great article. I haven't written under contract yet, and I don't know if I could. The pressure! Eek!

simon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
simon said...

I have written under the pressure of a contract deadline, which is very good for me, because I am naturally lazy, and if I am not pushed I dont write at all, or I write very badly, without editing, like this run on sentence.

aries18 said...

I aspire to write under deadline but I don't think my skills are ready yet. You make it all look like skating on ice, Judi, no effort at all. I know you work hard and your work shows it. Oh, leaving you a cozy knitted cap, scarf and gloves so you won't feel the cold.

Adele Dubois said...

Good post, Judi. The opening is always hardest to write, especially under difficult deadlines. Best of luck with your series.

Best--Adele Dubois

~Sia McKye~ said...

Oh lord, I've started something, Judi, lolol! I only mentioned to stop and say hi, so you wouldn't feel like you were left naked in the cold and now you have blankets and knitted caps and such...Blame it all on me, lolol!

April said...

I nodded as I read your post. I've had stories like that. Often I can't be sure of the beginning until after the first draft is finished--and sometimes not until I'm at the final draft. As scary as it is, I love when a story insists on unfolding its own way because if a story is that real to me, then the odds are it will feel real to the readers as well.

Kat Sheridan said...

Excellent article Judi! The finished product is worth the battle. And it's never easy. And you're right, Judi makes it look effortless,but some of us have been lucky enough to have front row seats to the creative process!

Judi Fennell said...

Thanks everyone - for stopping by and the blankets and what not! (I was dealing with real life and not near the internet until now!)

Thanks so much, Sia, for having me. I'm happy to report this one should be off to my editor within the week. Yay!