Monday, February 9, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Writing Posts

It looks like the writing post I put up two weeks ago will be my last. :(

I haven't necessarily run out of things to say, but I did notice that I was repeating myself. A LOT. LOL

Just about everything I know is now archived and can be easily accessed.

It's been fun doing these writing posts, but it's time to move on.

Enjoy the archives and good luck with your writing.

Happy Monday and Happy Reading...

susan meier

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Release Day! HER BROODING ITALIAN BOSS!

Happy Release day to me! I hope your go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble or your favorite bookstore and add HER BROODING ITALIAN BOSS to you TBR pile!





Happy Monday!

From busy Susan Meier! :)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Characterization

I got a book recommendation a few weeks ago and immediately ordered it because the topic was Characterization. One of my bugaboos. Sort of. After you've written sixty books, you know how to do everything. But I'm still seeking refinement. I will ALWAYS seek refinement. :)

Anyway, I bought this book expecting to be wowed or at least enlightened, but before we were out of chapter one, the author/teacher said something like...a great plot doesn't make a great story. It's only when characters' goals and motivations drive the conflicts associated with the plot that your story really comes alive.

Well, duh.

Romance writers have known this forever.

It's why we focus on goal, motivation and conflict. It doesn't matter how crafty your twists and turns, if they don't significantly impact the CHARACTERS and somehow raise the stakes...Romance readers say, "Meh." Whatever.

I used to laugh at how blatant action/adventure movies were with their motivations...We must steal 60 cars in one night or our leader's brother will be killed by a gangster. Or "You killed my wife...I'm coming after you." Or...Let's not forget TAKEN. Daughter kidnapped. Daddy goes after her.

The movies spend most of their time on the shoot 'em up, car chases and fist fights with kicking and head butts. But my husband buys into the premise every time. "Well, yeah. I'd be pissed if someone took Sarah." (Our daughter.) He puts himself into the shoes of his action heroes because he understand their motivations...no matter how cliché. LOL

Your reader wants to do that too. She wants to believe your hero's reasons for not wanting to commit and your heroine's reasons for not wanting to fall in love again. She wants to feel them fall in love. And feel them fight it because their experiences have taught them that love can be painful.

She wants to believe your sleuth when he can't walk away from the murder he investigates. She wants to believe the motives of your mainstream heroine or hero. She wants to believe.

And the only way you can make her believe is by creating strong goals, motivations and conflicts. Characters who have a real journey. (Let that last line sink in. Think about it. Do your characters have a REAL journey?)

So don't just come up with a "this happens, then this happens, then this happens" plot. Have your plot evolve logically from your characters, their hopes, their dreams, the barriers to those hopes and dreams, and the actions they take. And you will have a much better...dare I say compelling...story.

Happy Monday

susan

Monday, January 19, 2015

Structure, structure, structure...

What is three-act structure?

Simply put, it's the beginning, middle and end of your story. (BTW, don't get too complicated with how you think about things and they'll be a lot easier to understand!)

But the three acts aren't even. The first act is like a setup that ends with a decision or an action that turns the story on its ear and usually gets it going in another direction. It's usually one-tenth of the story. In a category romance, about thirty pages. In a bigger book, about forty. (YIKES) But it can be longer or shorter. There are no structure police. :) You will not go to jail if your setup takes longer or doesn't take as long.

i.e. In THE BABY PROJECT, the hero and heroine are made co-guardians of his half-brother in act one, which ends with them deciding to live together for the baby's sake. We also find out in act one that the heroine had a baby who died and she worries about her ability to care for another baby. Not because she's not competent, but because holding a baby brings back memories that devastate her. The hero doesn't know how to care for a baby either...but they don't yet have a nanny and two people really would be better than one.

So we end chapter one on a turning point...They decide to live together.

Act two is all about the results of the decision/turning point at the end of act one.

In THE BABY PROJECT it's what happens when the hero and heroine live together.

But in act two we also have the story's mid point...That's another turning point. In a lot of romances, the hero and heroine sleep together at the mid point and that changes how they feel about each other and also changes their circumstance.

From there it's a sort of tumble to the black moment which is usually the end of act two.

Which means that act three, like act one, is short. Misery without each other. Decisions. (Should I go back to my old job, my old life, my mom's basement? Or maybe should I leave this two-bit town and find my real destiny?) Followed by a point where the hero or heroine realizes (because of something that happens) that they made the wrong decision in dumping the hero/heroine...and then a happy ending.

Some people dress up act 3 with a Hollywood ending. A great/grand gesture made by the party in the wrong to win back the party in the right.

Other publishers like a more emotional ending. I done you wrong, but I am back, please don't shoot me...Love me.

Suspense authors have a whole different thing going on in act three. They have to solve the suspense problem (sometimes by killing the villain or rescuing somebody the villain took hostage); they have to fix the romance; and they have to debrief.

But essentially that's structure.

Why was/is that so hard? It isn't. Not if you use it. LOL But if you don't know about it, or if you let your characters runaway with your story...Yikes. You can have a mess on your hands.

Does structure ruin the free flow of your story? Read what I wrote above. I didn't give you the iron hand of the law that would make your characters puppets. Structure is just like a spine or a framework. Or maybe a tour guide. It doesn't boss you around. It just shows you the way to keep your story tight and on track.

Some people, Michael Hague, for instance, will give you a little bit more of a guide or a fence. I love his stuff! He's at storymastery.com. Get his plot template. You will love it.

The trick to this is realizing that you don't have to hit exact pages with things like turning points or act endings. You just have to be in the ballpark. :)

But trust me...in the end...you will be glad because you will have a clear, readable story.

Happy Monday

susan meier

Monday, January 12, 2015

Second week in January...Do you know where your New Year's resolutions are?

I stopped setting New Year's Resolutions when I discovered the power of goals. The interesting thing about a goal is that you have more of a chance of reaching a goal than powering through a resolution. Why is that?

Well, for one thing, goals should have a deadline. I will finish the draft of my book before May 1 is more of an instruction (which motivates) then the vague resolution ... This year I want to draft a book. Or this year I resolve to draft a book. You can procrastinate all year and suddenly find yourself face to face with December and nothing written on your book. Goals give you a deadline.

I will polish my draft before June 1 is much better than...I resolve to polish my draft.

Goals must be specific and time bound. In other words, a goal has to be stated clearly enough that you have no trouble understanding what you are to do. :) Time bound means you give yourself a deadline. Because a goal without a deadline is only a wish. (And if you see this quote online attributed to somebody like Oprah...Know that I came up with this about 20 years ago. LOL)

The same is true with ... I resolve to lose weight this year. Really? How much weight? By when and how do you intend to accomplish this?

Contrast I resolve to lose weight this year with ... I will lose 12 pounds by April first by going to the gym three times a week (with my trainer...) and using the lose-it app to track what I eat.

You can easily see which one will actually get results.

I gave myself 3 months to lose 12 pounds...a pound a week and I gave myself a plan: Work with trainer, use lose-it app to track what I eat. (There's nothing like accountability!) And I fully expect to see those pounds gone. Not by magic, but because I have a deadline and a plan...but I also know exactly what I am to do. Lose 12 pounds. :)

Or how about...I resolve to be happy. Yikes. How do you measure that? What's your deadline? And what are the specifics? How do you define happy?

Contrast that with...I will play golf with my husband and our friends once a week from May 1 until the end of September.

What does playing golf have to do with being happy? Well, it makes me happy to be with our friends and especially happy to spend time with my husband!

You could also add: I will take the third week of August off and go to the beach with my husband.

That's another goal that's more concrete than resolving to be happy. Going to the beach makes me happy. So I set the goal of going to the beach with the end result that I will be happy. :)

But notice something else...Specific goals help me to plan my year. If an editor says, How about if we make your deadline August 25, I can say, I'm going on vacation that week. Our deadline either needs to be the week before or two weeks after.

Do you get the picture? Goals have served me very, very well...especially last year when I had to write almost five books.

So take those resolutions that are making you feel either confused or like a failure and language them so that they are specific, measurable and time-bound.

And see if your year doesn't become more productive!

Happy Monday...and Happy Reading!

susan meier

Monday, January 5, 2015

Now that the holidays are behind us

Now that the holidays are behind us, we all need to get back to work. Actually, I got exactly 3 days off. And not back to back. Too many deadlines, too little Susan to go around.

Anyway, what are my tips for getting back into the swing of things after a bit of a lull?

1. Read your synopsis! Don't try to go back to work without knowing what you're working on. I've done that. I've written tons of pages I had to cut because I thought I knew my story but I got ahead of myself in the action or took the story in a wrong direction. Don't do that. Read your synopsis.

2. Be ruthless about your schedule. Set a starting time and stick to it. Habits are your best friend when it comes to getting things done. Figure out the best time of the day for you to write and get your butt in the chair and create the habit of getting your butt into the chair at the same time every day. Before you know it, you will automatically walk to your computer at your scheduled writing time and you will be ready to write.

3.  Let yourself go. Now that you've read your synopsis and know the direction of your story, don't be a stickler for perfection. Give yourself permission to write an awful draft. Or, if you're like me, write an awful scene or two that  you can polish the next day before you write that day's portion of dirty draft.

4. Give yourself some deadlines. Wow. Deadlines served me well last year. Knowing that if I missed one deadline my entire schedule would fall like dominoes, I scrambled to always get things in on time. Especially proposals. Proposals can (and usually will) be changed. Editors will have comments. The story might have gelled more fully in your brain by the time you actually sit down to write your book. So do your best work, but also don't over-think. Give yourself deadlines for finishing your proposal, your draft, your first polish, your final draft and you will get where you want to go.

It doesn't matter if you're a full-time writer or someone seeking to write her first book, these four things will get you back to work at top speed in no time.

Happy Monday...and Happy Reading!

susan meier

Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy New Year! Some advice...

This is a blog I posted about a year ago...I read it (to remind myself of a few things) and realized this was some perfect "new year/new start" advice...

Happy New Year! Enjoy! ...

A few weeks ago, I had a bad cold and spent a Saturday and Sunday in bed. If you know anything about weekend TV, you know I was bored to the point of tears and ended up watching a "special" about Garth Brooks. But, man, am I ever glad I did. The show was designed so that Garth himself didn't do much talking. His friends talked about him, his work ethic, etc. After a while I started making notes. :)



And here they are ...



8 things about Garth Brooks that might change the way you write.



1. He loves music and wants everybody to love music.

That sounds pretty simple, until you really think it through. Because he loves music he promotes well...but he also writes, produces and sings the best songs. The best songs. And what does that mean for his audience? He doesn't shortchange them. They always get the best.



So...If you really, really, really love WRITING and your genre, you should be looking for the best ideas. You should be doing YOUR best when you write. Your love of writing (or your genre) should shine through your work.





2. He has respect for other musicians and songwriters.

You have to have a healthy respect for what you do and everyone who does it in order to be your best. If you only half-heartedly love romance, I genuinely believe it shows in your work.



If you're working hard, if it takes you months to write a book, if you study writing, if you tear your scenes apart again and again to make them perfect...So are your peers. Lots of people are working full-time jobs and writing. Lots are caring for kids, elderly parents or disabled adult children. We should never, ever, ever discount the trials and tribulations of other writers.



It just plain makes us better people to be kind to each other. And God likes that. :)



3.  He has a good range.

Garth might be a country singer, but his songs transcend the genre.  Because of #4...



4.  He loves telling a good story.

That's so true. His music is all about storytelling. And he does it well. He picks subjects that resonate, and he makes them vibrate with reality and emotion. Literally. LOL



I heard Elton John talk about storytelling and music once and it totally changed the way I looked at music. He said smart songwriters tell a story because people love stories.



Well, lucky us! That's our business. But that takes us back to not shortchanging your audience (something I talked about a few weeks ago in the Hybrids blog), to figuring out what they like to hear, to learning to write well...so your story is the best it can be.




5. He is an entertainer.

And so should we be. People get a show when they go to see Garth. People want to be entertained when they read our books.



So many times we get caught up in word counts and craft that we forget we're entertainers. Nora Roberts wasn't afraid to break a few rules. Suzanne Brockman took regular romance "hook" or trope stories and turned them  on their ears. Laura Kaye's writing vibrates with sensuality, even as her characters charm you to death. LOL



When I pick up a book, I want to be swept away. And it took me a few books (like 20 -- sometimes I make my younger self sound like a real idiot) before I realized, as a reader, I wasn't special. All readers were like me. A book doesn't have to have tons of action or ideas that transcend the norm. The writer simply has to take her genre or subgenre's conventions and use them to entertain readers.



We are entertainers. So...entertain. :)



6.  He has a respect for his audience (very much, his friends said, like another successful guy...Frank Sinatra)

The pundits  used to tell us our audience was bored housewives. We now know that's not true. Our audience is lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, secretaries, nurses, business owners...Everybody.  You should appreciate the fact that a reader picked up your book. You should give her her money's worth. But most of all, you can't talk down to her.



Readers are very smart. If you write poorly, they will spot it. If you don't research, they will know. If you don't like what you're doing and "phone in" your book, they'll see it.

And they won't come back. So even your books with the tightest deadlines have to be your best work.



(I'm talking to myself here because I'm a week late and tempted to write fast and get this turkey in. Instead, I slowed down...God help me...to make sure the book is the best it can be.)



7. He's never afraid to be passionate.

And don't we love that? Being passionate, I think, is part of being a good entertainer. And we're all in the entertainment industry.



I love category romance. :) I love the point in the story when the tension is so tight you know it could snap. The story could change. The characters could do something they regret. It puts me on the edge of my seat.



That's what I want to see in books I read. That's what I want to get into my stories when I write. Granted, I'm not always successful...but I'm not afraid of that passion. Not afraid to confront it.



In fact, smart romance writers use it! We are, after all, in the passion business! LOL




8. Even with success he remained a nice guy. :)

Ah, would that we all could be. Sometimes I think it's easy for the uber successful to be nice guys. Let's face it. They're making the money. Readers are stroking their egos. Their Facebook fan page numbers are through the roof. Amazon loves them. Agents call them out of the blue. Editors call their agents and ask them to write something for them...



Sigh. I could be nice if I were on top!



That's what we all think. But the funny part of it is, the people on top have greater struggles than those of us hovering in the middle. There's constant expectation. Not just from their publishers, but from readers...AND THEMSELVES. When you are on top, you want to stay on top and there are thousands of wannabes nipping at your heels.



So whether you're on the top or in the middle or just starting out, know this:



You're going to have bad days. There will always be somebody who is doing better than you are. You will question your talent. There will never be enough hours in a day or days in a deadline...



That does not give you license to be mean.



In fact, given that we're all in this together, being nice to people is a way to form support groups, critique groups, lifeboat groups and make the friends who may someday save you. :)



But being nice is just plain the right thing to do. Jealousy, meanness and condescension only make you sadder than you already are. In other words, you're hurting yourself.



So grab your talent by the handle and get going. Don't worry about what anybody else is doing. Don't think you're better than anybody else. Don't worry that you're not getting the recognition you deserve. Just write your best book. Enjoy the process. And be a well rounded person. Enjoy your family. Love your spouse. Go fishing (or swimming or bingo playing or shopping). Have other passions aside from writing.



Because nobody's ever clearly the best. Rankings change. Genres go in and out of style. Things like Facebook get invented and change everything. :) Don't be so one-dimensional that you can't be happy unless you're the best. :)



And think of Garth Brooks. :) Be passionate, love your industry, love your audience, love your craft, love your peers, be a storyteller. A great storyteller. Be proud of yourself. :)



Happy Reading...And happy new year! May 2015 be your best year ever. Be blessed and be a blessing.



susan