A few weeks back I blogged about the purplest sentence I’d ever penned: He was a burning pyre of concupiscence in a sarcophagus of despair.
Okay, you can stop chuckling now.
For that bit of over-the-top writing I have something of a semi-valid excuse. My agent, in her revision letter, had requested an additional love scene, a scene which I’d let fade to black in my original manuscript because I found it too daunting to do, given all the love, hate, anger, and anguish on the hero’s part, because of a course of action he’d already decided upon for the morning after.
When my agent insisted, I got to thinking, and came up with a totally new way of tackling it. I was so excited, I rushed to my laptop to finish the whole scene in one emotionally charged session. Ergo, the semi-valid excuse. It was done really fast and it was essentially a first draft when I dashed off the revisions to her. Had I a little more time, and a few more readings, I might have come to my senses and hacked the sentence myself.
There existed in my manuscript, however, a far graver error, that slipped by both my agent and me, even though I must have gone through the scene twenty times during the writing of the book.
The error took place in the aftermath of a love scene. She stands facing a table. He is behind her. Here’s the snippet. See if you can spot what's wrong.
His cheek nuzzled against her neck. His hands were on either side of hers. They stood, practically in an embrace, with him leaning into her, surrounding her.
“Oh, God, Gigi,” he murmured, the syllables barely audible. “Gigi.”
She froze, the spell of the moment shattered. He had uttered that exact phrase on their wedding night, over her, under her, beside her, in what she had believed to be exultant bliss.
She twisted and slammed her palms into his chest. Her abrupt ferocity did not budge him, but his eyes widened in surprise. A moment later he voluntarily disengaged from her, withdrawing and stepping away.
Here’s what my editor, Caitlin Alexander, wrote on the page: “How can she slam her palms into his chest unless she turns completely around?” Then Caitlin put brackets around the word “withdrawing” and drew an arrow from the word to the part that said “twisted”.
I think my jaw literally dropped to the floor at that point, followed by hysterical laughter, thinking of what Caitlin must have thought but refrained from putting down on paper: indeed, how can Gigi do that, turning around, and hitting him, before he has withdrawn from her, unless he has—okay, let’s go with purple prose here—a love lance with the length and flexibility of a vacuum cleaner hose.
I’d have never lived it down had that made it to print. And you know some clever reader would have caught it and the Smart Bitches would be rolling on the floor laughing and blogging it. I’d have to forever hang my head in shame, the romance author equivalent of Dan Quayle. Worse, Dan Quayle only added an “e” to “potato”, I gave twenty-four whole new inches to the male anatomy.
That was my anatomy lesson from New York. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Professor Alexander. I promise to study harder for the next midterm.
Next Tuesday, hmm, I’ve both my contract and my author photo coming in the mail this week. Let’s see which one is more blog-worthy.