The Stake is High

I’m going into revisions again, for DELICIOUS. This time it won’t be a complete demolition-and-rebuild, but still enough of a renovation that walls would be knocked down, the kitchen unusable, and plastic tarps stretched everywhere.

The problem. Not enough at stake in the second half or latter 3/5 of the book.

Strangely enough, after I spoke to my editor, during the days when I was waiting for her detailed notes, I thought very little of DELICIOUS, but a lot of HEART OF BLADE, the one manuscript under my bed that I think really has something special. I believed its problem was that it didn’t start in the right place. So I pulled it out, set chapter 7 as the new chapter one, and tried to put together a 50-page proposal for my agent to have a look before I jumped back into DELICIOUS. And guess what, the wrong starting place was only one of the problems with HOB. Yep, not enough at stake in that one either.

It’s me. I tend to be intensely doubtful of HEAs when the situation is too dark or complicated. So in some ways, in my subconscious I tend to try to take out conflicts, because the cynic in my says that nope, once trouble goes beyond a certain personal comfort level, then nobody can overcome it.

That’s obviously not true, as my tolerance for interpersonal conflict in real life is very low, and I always stand amazed at couples who fight a lot and stay together and are pretty generally happy anyway.

So I’ve been reading craft books, and fiction in which the stake is high–hoping to absorb by osmosis. And in the middle of last week, I jumped back into DELICIOUS, ready to play with some stakes.

No doubt I’ll feel differently when I’m on my next book. But part of my frustration with DELICIOUS has always been that it is a tremendously important book to me, from a career standpoint. I don’t want to be a one-book wonder. I want DELICIOUS to blow people away. And yet I keep missing that hurricane factor.

So I’ll be busy hammering and drilling, and doing my best to stay away from the interwebs. I won’t blog here again until revisions are done. But I have written a review for Anne Stuart’s Black Ice–one of the books I recently read in my stakes-hunt. It would appear at Dear Author probably in a couple of weeks as part of a dueling review with Janine. And I will be doing a guest post at the the Romance Roundtable on November 6.

I will post permalinks when they are to be had. In the meanwhile, I’ll write. And here’s looking at you, kids. Write well. Write lots. And if you have any wisdom about upping the stakes without throwing in the kitchen sink, well, don’t be shy. Let me know.

11 thoughts on “The Stake is High

  1. Sherry,
    Looking forward to seeing you at Romance Round Table. You will NOT be a one hit wonder. But I understand a bit, because Private Arrangements is a helluva a debut book to follow and there is a lot of buzz about it. However, I’m sure DELICIOUS will be another sumptuous dish on the menu!!! Looking forward to see it in stores in June!!

  2. Beverley,

    THANKS for the vote of confidence. I’ll be doing my darnedest to make sure that DELICIOUS becomes indeed a sumptuous dish.

  3. I was fortunate enough to snag an advance copy of Private Arrangements at Nationals, and I completely agree with Bev. There is NO way you’re going to be a one hit wonder. It’s fresh, new, and fantasically well-written, Sherry. I’ll be buying a copy of PA when it (finally!) comes out to give to my sister because I won’t let go of mine, and will be at the head of the line for Delicious, as well.

  4. Try Don Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel.

    And here’s something he shared from a recent workshop I attended.

    When you’ve pulled out all the stops, when you’ve taken your character’s situation from bad to worse to impossible, when there seems no credible way out…

    Then you make a list of all the reasons why there really is no possible solution, no way for that HEA ending to occur. Knock yourself out on this. Assume your readers are cynical and jaded. Think of every objection anyone could raise, anything that could make the reader think, “Oh, come ON”…

    And then find ways, in the story, to overcome each of those objections, until the impossible becomes the inevitable.

    That (according to Don Maass) is how you raise the stakes to the stratosphere and then believably bring your characters down to earth again.

  5. Chris,

    Thank you so much. I will remember that you are at the head of the line, and do my utmost to deliver a worthwhile reading experience. 🙂


    LOL. I was just reading Donald Maass’s Breakout Novel an hour ago, the chapter on Stakes.

    I’d read it years ago. But it makes for excellent reading now.

    Thanks for the great relayed advice. It kind of makes my heart pound in fright even to read, but I guess if the writer isn’t in fear for the HEA, then why should the reader care?

  6. Sherry,

    I found your blog through PubRants, and I am really looking forward to reading Private Arrangements and Delicious. Your writing style is fantastic, it really draws me in. And your sense of humor is wonderful as well. Can’t wait to read more!


  7. One-hit wonder, hah!! Yeah, right.

    Anyway, I’m reading this post a little late, but best of luck with those revisions. You had to revise Private Arrangements too, ya know, and look how good that one came out. This is just part of the process of making an excellent book, not any indication of your talent (or lack thereof). Actually, it IS an indication of talent: You’ve got a lot, and plenty to do some amazing revisions.

    As for advice on upping the stakes, I got none! That’s one of my biggest faults as a storyteller too. I think mine is rooted in a) not wanting my beloved characters to suffer too much and b) not believing in contrived, improbable circumstances…so I make the story too much like real life. Read: dull.

  8. Sherry – saw your name on the Dear Author sidebar today and it reminded me that I had read an excerpt of Private Arrangements a few months ago and loved it (which led me to your blog).

    I’m really looking forward to reading your book, so much so that it has inspired me to post something on my blog about the books I am looking forward to reading in the next few months.

  9. Hi . . . I just popped in looking for your post about your queries and noticed this one. 🙂

    I’m not published, but I tend to write really messy situations that make me uncomfortable. (Unfortunately, cutting them would destroy the story.)

    Here’s what I do that makes things messy: Okay, if this is my situation, what’s the worst possible extrapolation of that?

    Warning: this can also make things rather . . . twisted. But maybe you’ll find it helpful. 🙂

  10. Michelle and Kathleen,



    Can’t wait till you have something for me to read.


    Thanks for the advice. And the post on the queries is the oldest entry on the blog, in case you haven’t found it yet.

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