Today I begin editing my new historical manuscript. This one began as a clear vision of the moment my heroine sees my hero for the very first time. I’ve gradually been shaking the image and characters for more detail. It’s set in 1814 and the working title will be Devil’s Heartache. Themes? Trust. Prison-both real and of the mind/heart.

Last night, I was watching the Colbert Report, with guest Tom Hanks (the ever lovable, funny, gracious and smart!). Throughout the interview, Mr. Hanks repeated what I know to be parts of a James Cagney quote on acting: “Hit your mark and tell the truth.”

Maybe because I am so close to hearing that writing bell ding, I found those words very affecting. Romance writing has marks–emotional marks, excitement/pacing marks, sensual marks, and, of course, the biggest mark of all–the happily ever after.

It’s easy to get so caught up in hitting each of those marks that you forget the second part: tell the truth. Yes, it’s fiction. Yes, it’s romance. Perhaps it even has a highly improbable plot. Tell the Truth, no matter what, still applies.

I try, when I write, to be present in the body of my POV character. That means experiencing the physical manifestations of her emotional experience. It means seeing the room she’s in as clearly as possible and picking up on the little details. It means feeling the heat off her lovers body and feeling the excitement & fear that drives their first encounter. That’s what I call telling the truth.

“Almost there” aches. I received so many requests for Lady Vicious, I hoped I would get an offer. However, something must have been missing because an offer never materialized. Deep down, I knew something was missing. I got caught up in plot and lost the thread of truth. After I finish another manuscript, I’ve no doubt I will be able to fix Lady Vicious, but for now it’s time to move on.

For Devil’s Heartache, I’m going to concentrate on Mr. Hanks’ advice. I know the marks I need to hit. I will tell the truth. Hopefully, I’ll make this next manuscript a living, breathing entity. Hit your mark, tell the truth.

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