Christmas Stray (A Sweet Holiday Romance) [coming soon]
Juliette Martin does not ever want to celebrate Christmas again, not when it means reliving the last one after her six-year-old son, Jeremiah, passed away on Christmas Eve.
She and husband, Gabe, find themselves snowed in at a mountain cabin with a pair of strays. Juliette desperately needs a miracle to save her marriage and restore her faith in God. Can a stray dog and orphan boy help her believe in the magic of Christmas and the power of love?
Hi, I’m Rachelle Ayala and I’m an addict–to writing romances. I’m the founder of a writing group called Romance In A Month where we feed our writing addiction by sharing our progress (in great detail) with our group. I don’t write alone, cloistered in a tower, refusing to discuss my story while it forms. Instead, I’ve developed a method where I and the writers in my group update our story progress with each other every day we write.
I’ve found this process to speed up my writing, because to me, writing is a spectator sport, and like any athlete, when there are spectators, I give a better effort. I put in more hours, I take feedback along the way, either cheers or boos, and in the end, my story is better because I catch missteps earlier. For example, in one story, I had my heroine jump off a pier because she was distraught. My group members commented. This isn’t good. Is she going to be injured or dead? Hmmm… also what does this say about her emotional stability? I realized I would go on a big rabbit trail, so the next day, she did not jump. She just had a heart to heart conversation instead of running away. Whew, disaster avoided.
Ever since I started using the Romance In A Month method, my writing has accelerated from 2 novels a year to a novella a month or a novel in two months. [While the first draft may be written in a short time, I still need to allow time for professional editing and beta reading, as well as revision and proofreading]. But my productivity has increased and I’m much happier too [and a lot less lonely in this writing adventure.]
Okay, so, I’m going to tell you how I wrote Christmas Stray in 48 hours. To do this effectively, you need to have the following goalposts or milestones in mind.
- Inciting Incident
- Lock-In or Call to Action
- Reversal or Midpoint
- Crisis or Dark Moment
The hook was apparent on the first page. The protagonist, Juliette, gets pissed off at a Christmas tree. Wow. Who attacks a Christmas tree? I immediately show her conflicted emotions. She’s grieving for a son who died of leukemia the day before Christmas a year ago. She doubts that she can repair her marriage, but she’s willing to give it one last shot because she still loves her husband, Gabe.
The inciting incident happens in Chapter 2. They find the stray dog and the orphan boy hiding behind the woodpile. The lock-in follows immediately in Chapter 3. Their car is iced up and they can’t open the doors to get their cell phones and then the power cuts off.
The first half shows Juliette reeling in grief and not responding well to her husband’s overtures. She’s making them miserable, but for the sake of the child they have good times. They roast chestnuts, read to the child, play with the dog, but the conflict between Juliette and Gabe escalates under the surface.
- I started with a couple who knew each other already. Second Chance romance works faster than Love at First Sight where you have to establish the basis for a couple to be attracted and then decide to pursue a relationship.
- I created a tight lock in. What could be tighter than being snowed in or marooned together?
- I threw in a catalyst to stir their feelings. An orphan boy and a stray dog. Tugs at the heart and helps them see the good in each other despite their conflicts.
- The remote location and being snowed in allowed for crisis situations to drive toward important milestones. This is external conflict pushing the characters to expose their internal conflict.
- Finally, Christmas is an emotional holiday and one where people try to create good times. It can also be a time of family confrontation. The backdrop of the holidays allowed me to push the timeline. Christmas is coming. The clock doesn’t stop.
- In the end, my characters go back to the normal world, i.e. home, and they are changed, transformed by their experience at the remote mountain cabin.
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Thanks for the inspiration, Rachelle, as I embark on writing two novellas in the first half of this year. Your advice is sound, simple, and so needed!
thanks so much. we’re going to do novellas in the May 2015 class. I’m excited about it.
Yes. I’m writing my first one right now. It’s a challenge to compress everything into half my normal novel size. I look forward to the class!