Archive for the 'Writing Life' Category
Monday, September 29th, 2008
I played hooky and went to the movies with hubby tonight. We don’t go to the movies very often. In fact I can’t remember the last movie we saw. I blogged about it over at the Danger Zone. While you’re there check out Linda Wisdom’s Hex Appeal contest in the post below.
I also blogged over at Dynamic Trio where I’m talking about Occupations in Romance novels.
It’s hard to believe that Cat and Mouse is out this week from Ellora’s Cave. Where has the time gone? Meantime I’m working on a synopsis for the next Middlemarch book before I start in on the requests I garnered at conference. Nailbiting time. I’m stressing about whether I can do my ideas justice. Sometimes ideas lose color and vibrancy when transferred from my head to paper. Or maybe I’m being tough on myself? I don’t know. I’m going to keep forging ahead anyhow.
Next month I’m doing an online class about pacing and how to fix sag and drag in writing. I figure a few coping strategies won’t go astray.
And what am I reading at the moment? I’ve just finished Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich and have started Lover Enshrined by JR Ward. While I like both books, I don’t love them. They didn’t wow me in the way that earlier books did by both authors. Am I getting series burnout? I don’t know the answer to that question either. Do you burnout on a series written by the same author? Do you stop reading series or do you keep reading to the completion of the series? When is a series too long?
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
When I first started writing, I learned there were specific rules to follow. This puzzled me because I couldn’t find a definitive list of these rules anywhere, yet fellow writers and contest judges were quick to fill me in.
No Rock Stars: I learned this one after I’d completed a story called Follow That Dream. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t have a rock star hero. No sports settings. Hmm, I had one of those, too. Evidently there are several occupations on the no-no list. Politicians and artists, please step this way.
The hero and heroine should meet in the first few pages. This one made a little more sense if the book was a short story or category romance, because we want the hero and heroine center stage. But what about a 100,000 word novel? Surely it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t meet straight away?
Read the rest of this entry ?
Tuesday, July 1st, 2008
It’s true I’ve concentrated on writing recently, but I have spared the odd moment or two to wonder about what to wear at the upcoming conference. It’s a perplexing problem, since after the conference, I’m traveling for another five weeks, which means I need to pack conservatively. Another major problem is that I need to leave plenty of space for books, both the ones I collect at the conference and the ones I buy during my travels. Do you see my dilemma?
About two weeks ago, I decided to attack the problem in a scientific manner. I’m going to write out my appointments and add details of what I’m wearing for each day. I think I’ve also decided to wear trousers to the Awards function, and this will mean one less pair of shoes. I’m also going to do the trousers/nice tops thing all the way through. All I need to do is decide the order of wearing. Jeesh! Who knew clothes could cause such a huge problem?
If anyone has any suggestions please speak up! And for those who are going to the conference, what are you taking to wear?
I have some wonderful guests visiting me this month. New Zealander, Sara Hantz is here on 9 July. She writes teen fiction. I must admit I’ve been reading quite a few stories from this genre and have really enjoyed them. Don’t miss her visit!
Marcia James is visiting on 16 July, and she’s talking about promo for both print and ebooks. She has wonderful advice for promo, so come armed with your questions. She also has a list of 150 plus promo ideas for authors. (details available on the day) You definitely don’t want to miss her visit!
Friday, June 13th, 2008
A good romance needs conflict to make it memorable. Our characters need motivation and goals, otherwise why are we bothering? For a beginner writer, conflict is often a difficult thing to grasp. It’s more than mere bickering.
The turning point for me came when I read Debra Dixon’s book GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict. I don’t read a lot of craft books, especially when I’m writing, since I start to second-guess myself. However, this is one of the books I found really useful. Here’s the link to the book.
Debra does charts and talks about internal and external conflict. I still use her method, but I also answer the questions below.
When I’m writing, I always work out the GMC of my two main characters and any important secondary characters before I write a word. Often I’ll layer in more conflict as I write, to strengthen my story, but the basics are in place before I start.
If I can answer the following five questions about my characters, then I know my story is workable, and I’m ready to start.
1. What do my characters want?
2. Why do they want it?
3. How do they plan to get it?
4. What’s standing in their way?
5. What will happen if they don’t get it?
I try to arrange the answers to the above questions so that my hero and heroine want the opposite, and during the course of the book, I try to make things worse. I throw in road blocks, and the characters need to work out another way to get what they want or buckle under the pressure.
How do you go about working out your goals, motivation and conflict for your characters? Do you have any favorite how-to books that help you in this area?
Friday, June 6th, 2008
With the Romance Writers of America conference coming up in July, I thought it was a good time to discuss pitches. Many of you, me included, have probably applied for appointments and now need to prepare for your pitch. Yes, I’ll admit the nerves get a bit of a workout, but preparation is the key. I’ve started to think about my pitch now.
Here are a few tips:
1. Prepare beforehand and summarise your book in a few sentences. Know your market and do a little research. If you have an agent appointment who do they represent? Have you read books by these writers? Is there an online article detailing the agents/editors likes and dislikes. You’ll be surprised at the articles that will pop up with an online search. When you’re reading check the acknowledgements in the front of the book. Many authors thank their editors and agents, which will give you a feel as to what type of book they enjoy.
2. Practice your pitch with a friend.
3. The agents and editors are probably just as nervous as you are about the pitch. Start with a smile and introduce yourself. Don’t forget to breathe. Write yourself some notes to jog your memory, just in case you freeze, and take them in with you.
4. As well as pitching, ask questions. It’s an ideal opportunity.
5. Speak clearly and not too quickly. I know I have a tendency to talk really fast if I’m a bit nervous. Be enthusiastic about your book – it’s a masterpiece, after all, and once you’ve pitched the agent/editor will want it. They’ll be excited about receiving your partial/full manuscript in the mail. Right? The point is – if you’re not excited then why should they want your book?
6. Don’t take your manuscript with you to hand to the editor/agent. The only thing you should take are your notes and a business card.
7. Most agents/editors prefer you to pitch only finished manuscripts.
8. Concentrate on pitching one book, although if you have time, it’s okay to mention others. The agent or editor will ask questions if they’re interested.
9. Dress – I probably don’t need to say this but treat the pitch like a job interview and dress accordingly. An editor/agent pitch is not the time to wear scruffy jeans and a short, tight T-shirt.
So what goes in a pitch?
One of my favorite articles about pitching is by author Kathy Carmichael. She has an excellent article on her website, along with a nifty pitch generator, which will help with your basic pitch.
Agent, Kristin Nelson also has some excellent posts about writing pitches/blurbs. The first post is Pitching and All That Jazz. Here’s another post for a contemporary romance and one for romantic suspense. Kristin’s posts can also be used for writing query letters and blurbs. I’ve only linked to a few. She has others and it’s definitely worth heading over to her blog.
CJ Lyons has a guest post over at Title Magic about perfecting your pitch.
Finally, Australian author, Paula Roe has a very good article describing the pitching process.
Do you have any pitching tips to add?
Saturday, May 31st, 2008
I found this list about why authors receive a rejection on their manuscripts when I was tidying up my office, so I thought I’d share. For some reason I’ve run across a lot of writers blogging about rejection and how to turn unpublished into published this week. Here are links to some of the great posts I’ve found.
At Passions Muses, Rowan West is talking about rejection. At Escape into Fantasy (Marilu Mann’s blog) Karen McCullough has suggestions on how we as writers can handle rejection. At Title Magic Dianna Love AND Mary Buckham have suggestions on how to break out of the pack of hopefuls to become a published writer.
Reasons Manuscripts are Rejected
1. No Beginning Hook
The author hasn’t started the story in the right place. They’re thrown in the main characters’ backstory plus the kitchen sink instead of starting at the place where the main conflict starts or changes.
2. No Strong Conflict
Each story should have internal and external conflict as well as sexual tension. Without conflict there’s no point to the story.
3. Underdeveloped Characters
Perfect characters are boring. Each character should have flaws, habits, and negative traits along with a good side. Even a villain should have a few good points.
4. Too Many Points of View
In a novella or category length book, two points of view are probably enough—that of the hero and heroine. In long novels it’s possible to have more POV but the point of view characters should play an important part in the story.
5. Too Much Telling
Show your characters in action rather than telling us about what they’re doing during the course of the story.
6. Mechanical Errors
Things like grammar, punctuation, spelling errors, typos, misused words etc could lead to a rejection.
7. Historical Inaccuracy
It’s important to double check facts, especially in historical novels. This also relates to contemporary novels. Check and recheck where necessary.
Avoid awkward or inappropriate dialogue. Make sure your characters don’t all sound the same.
9. Not Tightly Written
Every scene should work to drive the story forward. Delete all unnecessary words and scenes.
10. Not a Compelling Read
The main story idea needs to be strong enough to sustain an entire book.
The writer’s voice isn’t engaging.
QUESTION: We all face rejection in one way or another, be it as writers or as individuals going about the process of living. How do you handle rejection? How do you face rejection in your personal or business life? In your writing life?
Friday, May 23rd, 2008
I have a new cover for Cat and Mouse, the fifth book in my Middlemarch Mates series. It will come out on 1 October from Ellora’s Cave. Here’s the blurb:
Every woman has sexual needs. Lana Sinclair, feline shapeshifter and widow, is more than ready for a fun night with a likeminded male. Hot lovin’ is compulsory because she’s determined to scratch the itch that’s driving her crazy. This time, career-girl Lana is picking a malleable male who won’t try to corral her into the housewife role.
Fellow shifter Duncan Ross is the perfect candidate. The cowboy follows the rodeo circuit and is only in Middlemarch for the bull riding. One night of mutual seduction, slick, naked bodies and pleasure then he’ll be on his way.
Duncan is astonished when Lana propositions him, but no one could ever call him stupid. He’s always desired Lana and now that she’s ready for sex, he’s all action. It’s time to lasso the woman of his dreams with some sweet lovin’ and charm, a sexy massage and ropes spliced together with addictive pleasure. He’ll seduce her to his way of thinking—a permanent arrangement. This is one go-round Duncan is determined to win.
I’m giving away a copy of Midnight Treat over at Author Island today – that’s the anthology with Sally Painter, Margaret Carter and me. (cover in the sidebar to the right) Make sure you hop on over and enter the contest. The winner will receive a print copy of the anthology just as soon as I get my hands on one. This book hits the shelves on June 10 2008.
Tuesday, May 20th, 2008
I received the cover for Lovers at Last a couple of days ago. It’s not long until Lovers at Last hits the cyber shelves – 4 June.
I also have a gemstone story for July, so I’m looking forward to that cover as well. To read excerpts for the two stories check out the coming soon page at my website.
Thursday, May 8th, 2008
Thirteen Plus Classic Romance Plots
The secret of writing a great romance is to take a classic plot and twist it to make the story unique. Here is a list of the classic plot tropes used in romances:
1. Secret Baby – a pregnancy results from a romance and the father doesn’t know about it.
2. Cinderella – a rags to riches story.
3. Beauty and the Beast – one of the main characters is physically marred in some way.
4. Good Girl/Bad Boy – opposites attract. This can also be reversed with a bad girl/good boy.
5. Stranded – a couple is stranded together and the enforced intimacy leads to more.
6. Marriage of convenience – an arranged or forced marriage leads to love.
7. Family feud – think Romeo and Juliet.
8. Mistaken Identity – one of a couple isn’t who he or she appears to be on the surface.
9. Lady and the Cowboy – a class difference sets a couple apart.
10. Secret – a secret stands between romance.
11. Twins – lots of possibilities here.
12. Kidnapping – an abduction.
13. Business competitors – two people fighting for the same prize and only one can win.
14. Friends to Lovers – a friendship leads to more.
15. Masquerade – pretending to be someone else.
16. Amnesia – where one of the characters has lost their memory.
Which type of plot is your favorite? The one you most dislike? Have I missed any from my list?
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Wednesday, May 7th, 2008
I visited the Purple Hearts blog a few days ago, and Nancy Haddock was their special guest. Nancy’s post was about the road she’s traveled to become published. BTW – Nancy’s new release La Vida Vampire looks like a fun read.
The last part of her post made me think about writing the book of your heart and following the market. There’s no doubt about it – the road to publication and the subsequent hard work to stay published isn’t an easy one. We, as writers, need to write the very best book we can, yet it must be marketable. Sometimes the market is difficult to read. The books that editors are buying now won’t hit the shops for a while, and by the time they do, often the market is saturated with that particular genre of romance. Historicals are becoming more popular now, and I’ve heard murmuring that sci-fi is the new paranormal. Other people are saying erotic romance has done its dash.
I have an idea. I know it’s probably not a marketable story because it’s sci-fi, it’s light rather than the currently popular darker paranormals, and I have a yearning to write this story in first person. Three strikes, and I’m out. But the thing is – this story is calling me. I’ve been thinking about this story for three years, and after all that time, I still love the idea.
So my question to you is: do you write the book of your heart, even though you know it might not be your breakout book, or do you play it safe and write the story you know you have a good chance of selling?