writing

Behind the Scenes of Sports Romance RIVALS

How important are critique partners and editors? If writing is a sport, then . . .

My critique partner, Nicki Elson, is the helmet that prevents my concussion:

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay 

And my editor, Jessica Royer Ocken, is the kneepads that stops floor burn.

Image by Tania Van den Berghen from Pixabay 

I’ll demonstrate with a scene from my latest release, sports romance Rivals.

Ohio State volleyball coach Lauren is angry with Michigan Wolverines football coach Jeremy for a thoughtless request. Jeremy’s star quarterback, Evan, is struggling, and Jeremy asked Lauren to bring Evan’s twin, Emma, to console him. However, Emma is Lauren’s star player, and both Lauren and Emma would’ve had to miss an important volleyball match to help Evan.

Here’s the original scene when Jeremy tries to make it up to Lauren. What do you think of his apology?

 “I care about Emma!” Jeremy says. “What’re you talking about?”

“You care about her? You wanted her to miss her match tonight, all for Evan!”

His forehead creases. “Listen, I—”

“You think your sport’s the only one that matters! You’re so smug up there in your TV tower, wrinkling your nose down at the little loser sports playing their trivial, meaningless games, deluding themselves that they’re important when we all know they only exist because of their football team.”

“Are you done?” His nostrils flare.

“I’m just getting started!” I roar. “I—” 

He crosses over to me in a second, engulfing my next words in an impassioned kiss. I place my hands on his chest to push him away, but when I feel the vibration of his rapid heartbeat, I let go of my resistance and massage his muscles instead. He cradles my face in his hands as he deepens the kiss. The flush of anger on my cheeks morphs into a flush of arousal as I inhale his strong, masculine scent.

He tucks me into his solid body. “I’m so sorry,” he murmurs into my ear. “That was really douchy of me to ask that of you.” He pulls back and looks down at me. “Volleyball does matter. And you’re a fantastic coach.” He swallows. “This kid…” He angles his head toward his car. “He just drives me insane. So much talent…but if he doesn’t pull it together like his sister has, he’s going to wash out.”

Is that excuse good enough? Should I let Jeremy off the hook? I have to concede that his solid arms holding me feel so right. I’ve missed him, and I don’t want to have to leave him again.

“Evan and Emma brought us together,” says Jeremy. “And I won’t let them pull us apart.” He gathers my hands in his, warm and firm on a cool September night. His tired eyes crinkle at the corners. “Will you forgive me, Coach Chase?”

~*~

My critique partner, Nicki Elson, thought his apology didn’t go far enough. This is where characterization edits can really help. I know my characters’ intent, but sometimes their motivation gets lost in translation between my mind and the manuscript. I incorporated Nicki’s suggestions to beef up Jeremy’s apology and explain what it means to Lauren.

Editor Jessica Royer Ocken helped tighten and clarify my writing throughout the manuscript, including changes to tense, spelling, and word deletion in this scene.

Here’s the edited version:

“I care about Emma!” Jeremy says. “What’re you talking about?”

“You care about her? You wanted her to miss her match tonight, all for Evan!”

His forehead creases. “Listen, I—”

“You think your sport’s the only one that matters! You’re so smug up there in your TV tower, wrinkling your nose at the little loser sports playing their trivial, meaningless games, deluding themselves that they’re important when we all know they only exist because of their football team.”

“Are you done?” His nostrils flare.

“I’m just getting started!” I roar. “I—” 

He crosses over to me in a second, engulfing my next words in an impassioned kiss. I place my hands on his chest to push him away, but when I feel the vibration of his rapid heartbeat, I let go of my resistance. He cradles my face in his hands as he deepens the kiss. The flush of anger on my cheeks morphs into arousal as I inhale his strong, masculine scent.

He tucks me into his firm body. “I’m so sorry,” he murmurs into my ear. “That was really douchey of me to ask that of you.” He pulls back and looks down at me. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I wasn’t thinking. That was one-hundred-percent desperation. But there’s no excuse.”

Damn straight.

“Volleyball does matter. And you’re a fantastic coach.” He swallows. “This kid…” He angles his head toward his car. “He just drives me insane. So much talent…but if he doesn’t pull it together like his sister, he’s going to wash out.”

Is that excuse good enough? Should I let Jeremy off the hook? His solid arms holding me feel so right. I’ve missed him, and I don’t want to have to leave him.

We let go of each other but still stand close.

“But Evan doesn’t matter as much to me as you do, Lauren. I’m so sorry I put him ahead of you today. I promise I’ll never do that again. You come first with me, okay?”

Something shakes loose inside of me as I listen to his words. I realize he’s the most important person in my life, too—ahead of my parents, Sam, Alex, and my assistants. Here I was, so scared to let any man in, worrying he’d hurt me like Paul did. And somehow this Michigan Wolverine has burrowed his way into my heart, inch by inch. His prominence in my life is the very reason his earlier actions hurt so much. But his apology seems sincere. I can see the fear in his eyes as he begs for my forgiveness.

“Evan and Emma brought us together,” Jeremy says. “But I won’t let them pull us apart.” He gathers my hands in his, warm and firm on a cool September night. His eyes crinkle at the corners. “Will you forgive me, Coach Chase?”

~*~

What do you think of Jeremy’s apology? I hope it resonates better with the reader on my second attempt. How do your critique partners and editors help you as a writer?

Links for Rivals:

Amazon US https://amzn.to/3cOoZDu

Amazon CA https://amzn.to/36Omdu0

Amazon UK https://amzn.to/3rsHG3K

Amazon AU http://amzn.to/2LtL2UT