As a Plantser, even though I do have a rough outline of where I’m going with the course of a story, I’m never one hundred percent sure of how much left there is to write in a first draft. Since I prefer to write the first draft by hand and type everything up as I’m going through the first round of edits, I’m not able to pinpoint the word count and compare it to past projects until I’ve finished transcribing it.
But there is one sure-fire way for me to know when I’ve reached the halfway point of an ongoing first draft: everything comes to a halt.
In most cases, this has to do with the plot itself. As a Plantser, I’m a combination of Planners who outline and know most of their story’s direction and Pansters who, as the name implies, write by the seat of their pants and go with the flow.
Usually towards the middle of the first draft, I find myself having to step back and rework some areas of the bigger picture or develop things further so my protagonists are able to reach the ending I had in mind since I outlined the project.
This is the point I’m at with Against His Vows.
Luckily, though, I’m just starting to get past it and get back to work with a little inspiration from this week’s Soundwave Wednesday.
As a Historical Fiction novelist concentrated on 1800s England, it should come as no surprise that I am a huge fan of the BBC’s period drama Poldark. In all honesty, it is my favorite television show and I am absolutely devastated about the series concluding after the upcoming fifth season.
Poldark is based on the novels by Winston Graham and opens with Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) returning to him home after fighting in the Revolutionary War/War of American Independence to learn everyone believed he had died. On top of that, Ross’s father has died, he has inherited the family’s mines, and his fiancee is now engaged to his cousin.
After witnessing the start of a dogfight in town and breaking it up after one of the pup’s owners intervenes, he takes on Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) as a kitchenmaid. It’s not long before things fire up between them and they are married.
The whirlwind doesn’t end there, especially for the new Mrs. Poldark. Having grown up poor and now the wife of a man from a wealthy family, Demelza finds herself feeling lost at times as she adjusts to her new life.
One of the things that really rubs this in her face is her first Christmas as a married woman, which is spent with Ross’s family. Several of his relatives give her a hard time because of her peerage and suddenly-elevated status.
I was listening to the score from Poldark recently, and that’s when I realized what was missing in Against His Vows.
One of the hardest but must important things to do when you get stuck is figure out where the problem lies and how to fix it.
Against His Vows follows a couple who elopes, which results in the groom being disowned by his father. The pair ultimately moves to the countryside and buys a farm using her dowry.
When writing romances, I like to make sure each protagonist has their own individual conflicts in addition to one they share. In Bound to the Heart, Zach has his efforts to balance his responsibilities to his bookshop and chaperoning his siblings while they visit him, and Eve struggles with her mother intent of finding a suitable husband despite her own wishes to marry for love.
With Against His Vows, William has a lot on his plate from his father’s expectations and the consequences of disobeying him, which later creates some financial woes down the road and create some tension between him and Miranda in their marriage.
Miranda, however, I hadn’t quite pinpointed yet. She’s still on good terms with her family and is dealing with the separation from them now that she no longer lives with them in London after eloping with William. She’s feeling some guilt since William went against his father’s orders when he chose to marry her and feels like she indirectly caused his disownment. Like her husband, she is adjusting to life on the farm after having lived in the city all her life.
But it didn’t feel like Miranda had a personal storyline the way Eve does, and it wasn’t until I listened to the Poldark score that I realized where it was hiding.
What I have on my hands with Miranda’s story in Against His Vows is almost a reverse-Demelza situation. With Poldark, Demelza struggles with the abrupt shift in her status from being poor to marrying into a wealthy family. And with that comes the speculation and scathing judgments of Ross’s relatives.
Miranda’s situation is similar. She grew up in London in an upper-middle-class family but leaves with William for the countryside, which comes with more adjustments than she thought. Like Demelza, Miranda finds herself trying to navigate her new life.
One of my favorite moments from the first season of Poldark occurs as Ross and Demelza are visiting his relatives for Christmas (which you can watch here). Demelza is talked into performing a piece of music despite not being as “accomplished” as the other women in the room. This in some ways is an attempt to scare her off a little and intimidate her.
Miranda does possess some of these accomplishments, however, she would lack the agricultural know-how of her neighbors.
And that’s where I realized what Miranda’s storyline was missing.
I had already introduced another couple who had engaged in a bidding war over the farm William and Miranda buy, who were then going to try and run William and Miranda out of town so they could take the land for themselves.
My initial plan was to have William be their target, which would have them sabotaging the land and getting one of the farmhands to do some snooping around, but I’m starting to think these antagonists need to set their sights on Miranda instead. So out of nowhere I now find myself writing a dinner scene where, much like the Poldarks aim to intimidate Demelza, Miranda is going to get grilled by several neighbors because of her London upbringing and lack of agricultural knowledge.
Miranda’s storyline is now going to focus more on her becoming independent and confident in herself while making the change from City Mouse to Country Mouse alongside her husband.
While I’m working on that, you can listen to I’d Pluck A Fair Rose performed by Eleanor Tomlinson via Spotify below!