Monday, December 17, 2012

Coming up with stories

This past week, I spent most of my writing time coming up with stories. I actually came up with five ideas, wrote two storyboards and one synopsis.

This week and next I will take the two most developed of those ideas, and write good synopses and the first three chapters for each book.

Now, why did I come up with multiple ideas if I'm only developing 2? Two reasons...I'm saving the others. :) But also...I like to task batch.

When I'm drafting, I love to draft. When I'm proofing, I proof the cereal box. The same is true when I'm coming up with story ideas. When I'm working on ideas, I like to work on ideas.

I have a system. I start with a concept that I turn into a one-paragraph story idea. I turn that idea into a could, might, must and should list which I turn into a storyboard. And the storyboard becomes a synopsis.

You need a specific set of skills to write a one-paragraph story idea. Your brain needs to be very open when you create your could, might, must and should list. And you need to be in organization mode when you're doing a storyboard.

So since you have to employ a specific skill set and also have to "set" your brain to work a specific way...Why only do one idea? LOL

With your brain set to stretch and reach, why not let it do all the stretching it wants to do? When it's in organization mode, why only organize one idea?

The next time you're working on an "idea"...try working on a second idea too. And in the week or two weeks you've set aside to develop your might just end up with two stories rather than one!

Happy Monday


Monday, December 10, 2012


Over the past two weeks, I wrote my first ever anthology. I've written short stories for my website, around 10,000 words. I've written estories for eharlequin, but I'd never written an anthology.

I discovered a few things. Plotting an anthology is exactly like plotting a book. (Duh,
susan!) You scoff, but I know a lot of writers who don't believe the story needs to have depth. I know writers who believe the hero and/or heroine don't have to grow...that there's not enough room in the story for both characters to grow.

The truth is...there is. You just need to keep in mind the constraints of your page count. You also need to have scenes do double and triple duty. You have to think through your story.

But that wasn't a hardship because that's exactly what I do for my longer books. I remind myself that I am in the entertainment industry. I remind myself that readers like a story they can sink their teeth into. They like characters they want to read about. They like good secondary characters. They like a good setting...I'm reading BABY IT'S COLD OUTSIDE, the anthology with Heidi Rice, Kate Hardy, Aimee Carson and Amy Andrews...their "setting" is a blizzard that strands four couples over the holidays. Loved it! matter how long or short, a story has to have all the components to be something that pleases your readers. True, single titles have to have a bigger, broader story that gives the novel added depth, category romances have to focus on the romance and anthologies have such a short page count that you have to really work your words to death...but you can do it!

Have faith in yourself. Have faith in your talent. Then, work. Never expect a free lunch. :)

Happy Monday

Monday, December 3, 2012

FRA-GI-LE ... It must be Italian

There's nothing like a good Christmas story to stick with us and become part of our holiday tradition. My daughter and I watch WHITE CHRISTMAS like it's our job over the holiday. The boys are big fans CHRISTMAS STORY. And the whole family loves HOME ALONE.

How does a story get to be good enough to worm its way into our traditions? Well, for one, the story usually has heart. It appeals to something in us that wants everyone to be happy...especially the little girl or abandoned heroine or baby having her first Christmas or family losing their home or uncle suddenly saddled with raising his niece or nephew.

It hooks us "into" the holiday by being wrapped in tinsel, with twinkling lights everywhere, billowing snow and air so cold the characters' breath mists.

It reminds us of the best parts of our childhood...sleigh rides, the scent of warm sugar cookies, painting cookies with icing with our mom or gram, snuggling under the covers dreaming of gifts.

But most of all it reminds us to love. In a romance it's easy for us to get love in through the hero and heroine overcoming their struggles...but it helps if your H and H are bringing love back to a dying town, or giving love to a suffering child, or rescuing dogs no one else wants.

Because love -- especially love in the Christmas season -- isn't just about romance.  It's about the big picture. It's about saving someone else at your own expense, sacrificing, giving with no hope of receiving.

In final analysis, that's what Christmas is all about...and if you want to write a Christmas story...THAT's what you gotta get in there.


Monday, November 26, 2012


I know. I know. It's not even January 1st yet and I'm telling you it's time to set goals!


Because really good goals, the ones you actually achieve aren't set on impulse. They are thought-through. They take your real life into consideration...all your roles. They have a deadline and they also require a plan.

But they also have to be something over which you have control. You cannot say...I will SELL a book this year because you have no control over that. Well, maybe not 'no' control. You CAN write the book. You CAN polish the book so it's the best it can be when it goes to an editor. You CAN investigate publishers and editors who would want the book. You can set a deadline for when you will SUBMIT the book...


Wouldn't those actually be better goals than saying you will SELL a book?

Actually, yes, they would be. The only thing missing in each of those steps is a date by which you would accomplish them.

You need a deadline for each of those goals because a goal without a deadline is only a wish. And if you're just wishing, then you're not serious. And if you're not serious, you're probably not going to succeed.

So if you're seriously considering taking the REAL plunge and writing and submitting a book this year...take a look at those four items above...Write book, polish the book, investigate publishers and editors, and submit the book. Give them dates/deadlines and you've got four good, achievable goals.

For those of you able to write more than one book a year...don't space the dates out so far. Know yourself. If you can write your book in four weeks, then give yourself four weeks to write a book. Give yourself a few weeks to polish, a few weeks to investigate editors and a deadline to submit...for more than one book. And you'll have your goals too.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Late today!

Some of you may have noticed that my Monday morning posts are getting later and later. I have no excuse except that I used to write these on Sunday night and lately my Sundays have been busier. Good for me since I like a little social interaction, especially if there's cake. Not so good for my blogging.

Anyway, today, I looked at my manuscript and had one of those "hummmm..." moments. It's due next Monday. I've got about 2/3 of the book written. Not a big deal since I can write the other third in seven days. (And I don't have an event next Sunday. :O) But that doesn't leave a lot of time for polishing...or even reading the whole thing through.

But I've been writing for such a long time that I realize you don't have to dilly dally. In fact, I can probably get three read-throughs done on this book this week.


Yes. I'll read (skim read) the first time through to make sure my STORY is intact.

The second time, I'll skim read again, but not quite so quickly because I'll be looking at my SCENES. Making sure they are good choices to illustrate journey steps, making sure there's conflict and making sure there are beginning and ending hooks.

The last read through will be slow as I look at word choices.

If you try to read your ms looking for ALL your errors in one shot, without having a goal of what you're looking for, it won't just take you forever to read your book...esp if you stop to fix and repair could also potentially make a mess of things.

Set your story. Then fix your scenes. Then go back and dabble with words and you won't worry that you'll change something at the beginning of the book that totally screws up something at the end.

So make your final read through three final reads-through. LOL Know your story before you start messing with scenes. Set your scenes before you screw with your words. And you'll be much happier with your final result!

Happy Monday!


Monday, November 5, 2012

What are you working on?

Many, many years ago, I realized (the hard way, long story that I can't go into now! LOL) that I was supposed to be growing as a writer, but I wasn't! Before we're published, we all have a tendency to long for that day when we get the call because then, we believe, we will have made it. The hard work will be over!

Sorta true, but not true.

Selling a manuscript IS a huge deal. It is a milestone. But it is not the end.

Readers (and editors) aren't looking for huge changes in your writing but they do expect your stories  and your writing of those stories to get better. So the day that I realized my writing hadn't gotten better and I knew I'd have to be doing some studying, I actually broke my writing into categories. Story, scene and words.

Sometimes I'm studying grammar. Sometimes I'm looking at the intricacies of a great story. And sometimes, when I read, I'm studying how a beloved author put together her story. The order of scenes. The way she constructed the scene.

I know. I know. You all know this stuff. But...

Couldn't you be a little better at it?


Right now, I have a big note above the manuscript I just started, reminding me of a criticism I got from a reviewer on my last book. I want to get rid of that writing tic.

I want to be better. Some day I'd like to be considered one of the best...which is kind of funny since there are thousands of incredibly talented romance writers out there. And lots of different tastes in books. And lots of different interpretations of what's "great."

But it doesn't hurt to have that drives me to think harder about my stories, to work more diligently on getting my scenes in order for maximum drama, and to delete, delete, delete poor phrasing and bad word choices.

As we rumble toward the year 2013 check yourself. Is there an area of your work you could improve?

Could you set it as a goal for 2013?

Happy Monday!

susan meier

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ninc Takeaway


No one puts on a conference like NINC.  If you attended and didn't return with at least fifty great ideas, you're either already doing all this great stuff or ... well, you were dead -- or sleeping during the presentations.

Honestly, I don't really know where to begin with information. I'd never heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) but now I know enough about it to totally transform my website. I'd heard about Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, but under use them. Now I won't! (I also got to see Jen Talty!)

Liz Maverick talked about discoverability and discussed newsletters in a way that didn't merely help revolutionize mine, but also in a way that helped me to understand the real purpose of my newsletter. I no longer have to feel like I'm talking to a big black hole.

Julie Ortolon taught us a lot about marketing, including advanced marketing techniques. She and her lifeboat team also taught us how to create our own groups of friends, not just to like and tag our books, but also to be a sort of think tank for lifting our discoverability as well as a support group.

Guys from Amazon and Goodreads also demystified their processes. (Thank you, guys!)

I have 2 notebooks filled with shorthand. Which means in longhand terms I'd probably have 6 notebooks. I have 20 pages of action items...aka a to do list! (A long to do list)

Obviously I won't even have them transcribed for weeks. So what's the takeaway?

I think the bottom line for discoverability and navigating the new world of publishing is the same bottom line I have for writing a novel. It takes time. It takes a village. But most of all, you really have to want it.

I used to go to conferences and meet people who wanted "to write a book" as a form of entertainment.  This weekend I met my competition and they are fierce. But they are also generous. They shared their marketing tricks and tips as freely as I share my writing tricks and tips.

You need to go to conferences. You need to use all the tools at your disposal. But most of all, you need to somehow, someway love this processes. Not just the writing but the marketing.

This weekend caused me to love the marketing side, to see that it can be fun and every bit as creative as writing a novel.

But it also showed me what a fantastic, generous writing community we live in.

So, thanks NINC and thanks to all the wonderful presenters.

susan meier

Monday, October 22, 2012

Self Editing

My students and I are in the home stretch for our self-editing workshop this month. In every "editing type" class I teach, students are always grateful when I show them how to find the heart of their story, so that they can find their story problems BEFORE an editor does.

We ran through the whole shebang on scenes...learned to do a storyboard...again, so that attendees could spot pacing, tone, point of view, etc. problems BEFORE an editor does.

This week we're doing words. You know the drill. Are you giving readers the correct impressions of your characters in your descriptions AND actions. How's your grammar? How's your sentence structure?

At the end of the month I expect all my students to be exhausted. :)

Self-editing is a lot of work.

But it's all necessary work. If you want to go the traditional or epublishing or even small press route, you have to be one of the best of the best. Having a clean manuscript with a flawless story and scenes that create the edge-of-the-seat pacing puts you ahead of the rest.

But...if you want to self-publish and you can't afford to hire an outside really need to self-edit. You have no safety net.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Sisters in Crime!

Spent the weekend with 14 or 15 of the great ladies from the local Sisters in Crime Chapter. They rent a house in the little town of Confluence, PA and hunker down to talk about writing for three glorious days. For my part, I taught them the tricks and tips I use to make a story better, and to polish my scenes and pack them with more power.

In our downtime, we discussed the state of the industry and why it's a great time to be a writer.

Because it is.

Never before have we had the opportunity to reach and influence the number of people we can reach now. Never before could you be your own publisher. Never before could we take a rejected book, something an editor confidentially whispered was wonderful but she didn't know where to shelf it, and offer it to the public. And watch that book outdo the traditionally published books around it.

ePublishing doesn't have shelves. :) So we can finally, finally take a risk!

But with great power comes great responsibility.

The ladies from Sisters in Crime and I also lamented the lack of grammar skills of some authors...and how, without an editor, bad grammar is being passed off as good. :(  Poor sentence structure makes more than a passing appearance in some books. Some books don't have good stories...some books don't even have a story.

So while we're being treated to unexpectedly fabulous books that might not have made it passed the traditional gatekeepers, we're also seeing some real crap hitting the Amazon website.

I, personally, believe this will all shake out. But I also believe we have made ourselves the gatekeepers. And with great power comes great responsibility.

What was the last grammar book you read?
When was the last time you studied story structure?
When did you last seriously ponder what it means to be a entertainer?

I believe there is room for all of us...lots of room. But cream rises to the top. :) And with great power comes great responsibility.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Doing something Stupid...aka different

A few years ago, I listened to a motivational tape by the great motivational expert Tony Robbins. In the tape he talked about doing unexpected or unusual things to help yourself break a habit. If, for instance, you're trying to lose weight, he suggests you throw away all your fat clothes...except for one outfit...and wear that outfit every day. The thought is that eventually you will grow embarrassed enough or tired enough of the outfit that you'll get yourself to lose weight.

Sounds silly...but I think it could work. More important, I think the something silly idea actually works for writing.


Well, first off, if you get stuck and write the first silly thing that comes to mind...even if you can't use the scene, you've probably awakened your brain, broken your block or gotten yourself to think outside the box.

But what if you could use the scene? What if saying, What's the scariest thing that could happen right now...actually resulted in a good scene? Or what's the most romantic thing that could happen write now? The most emotional? The most thrilling? The most inspirational?

Sometimes we shy away from "the most." After all, we are building to a black moment...and you can't build by grabbing "the most" thrilling, romantic, scary, inspirational, emotional thing...Can you?

Why not?

I once heard Janet Evanovich give a speech at at RWA conference. She said, Don't save anything for the next book. Put everything on the table in this book. Make this book great.

But what if you put that really emotional scene in the middle of the are you going to escalate from that?

You may be surprised. And your book may be better for it.


Because everybody wants a great read. Not a mediocre read. A great read. So find your great scenes, the story's great moments and get them in. And work from there.

Putting yourself to the test in your book is sort of like throwing away all your fat clothes. Once you commit, you have no choice but to follow through! You might have to work a little harder, might have to think harder, might have to take your story to the next level...but what a book you'll end up with!

Happy Monday!


Monday, October 1, 2012

Getting Down to Business

The wedding is over and I am now getting down to business with book #50.

The good news is ... my editor LOVED the proposal.

The bad news is... my editor got promoted and I won't be working on this book with her.

When I wrote for the New York office, I worked with one editor for 13 years. When she left to raise her children, I shifted to another editor. I had two editors in probably fifteen years.

Then I was transferred to London and I've been shifted around four or five 6 years.

It seems pretty jarring...but...

Interestingly, being shifted so much forced me to understand my line better than just what "my" editor was looking for. I had to learn the ins and outs of what made a Harlequin Romance a Harlequin Romance and then I had to figure out what makes a GREAT Harlequin Romance. ;0

It's good to please your editor. :) But understanding what makes a great story and being able to please everybody is better. I don't have any angst over this switch. I was also blissfully happy for my editor's promotion. She is a smart woman who deserves to move up the ladder of success.

Why am I telling you all this? In the past five years, I've learned some great things about writing romances. (I've written some new workshops to prove it. LOL) This after having published thirty or so books.

You're never too old to learn. Brian Tracy, in his tape series THE MIRACLE OF SELF-DISCIPLINE, says we should be learning all the time and that one of our goals should be to be in the top 10% of our field. I'm not sure I can aspire to the second half of that's kinda lofty...but I love to learn. I love researching new subjects and potential careers for my characters. I love to study grammar. (I'm currently rereading WOE IS I!...a grammar book that isn't boring.) I love to read and analyze every book I can get my hands on (and have time for).

I think we shouldn't just be focused on our current projects. We should see ourselves as a work in progress. How much can we learn? How good can we get?

Because learning is fun. Getting better is fun.

Happy Monday!


Monday, September 24, 2012

Writer on a Plane

I'm not sure what time you're reading this but if it's morning for you there's a good chance I'm on a plane...Going to Aspen, Colorado to see my youngest get married. Not only is this a bittersweet time for me, but also ... it made me think about writing.

Allen getting married is bittersweet because it reminds me that he's growing up. Well, grown up, technically, since he's thirty. And I missed a lot of his childhood because in the 80's when women first came into their own in the workplace, overtime, sixty-hour weeks, community service for your corporation were all the norm. We were thrilled for the opportunity.

Fast forward a few decades and now we're seeing that we missed a lot of important things in our children's lives. If I were writing a late-fifty-year-old Mom, I'd make sure she had some regrets. And that her children, potentially the hero or heroine, had missed having her around.

There was an article in today's paper about a seventy-something woman in my area who was appointed spokesperson for our symphony. When I looked at her picture, the first thing I noticed was that the pin on her suit was virtually on her shoulder. I sort of chuckled, thinking, I remember some of the ladies I worked with (around her age) doing that -- having a pin so high it was almost by their ears -- and I thought...what a great detail for a story.

Last night, at the gender reveal for my niece's new baby...the color of the icing between the two layers of the "reveal" cake tells us the baby's family will use any excuse to have cake...I saw my nieces Lainie and Maddie both using their hands to swirl their skirts...and I remembered doing that as a child. But I also thought, Hum. Good detail for the little girl in my new story.

Details are all around. Things that grab a reader and instantly provide characterization. Who doesn't know a mom from the 80's with regrets about too much work? Who doesn't know a grandma or great grandma with her pin way up on her shoulder? Who doesn't know a little girl who swirls her ruffled skirt because it's fun?

Details like that ground a reader. So look around. Pay attention. The best ways to capture readers and pluck them into your scene are all around you. They're in daily life. The best place to find the reality you need to ground your reader is ... well, in reality.

Happy Monday


Monday, September 17, 2012


I don't do a lot of guest blogs, but I do enough that this summer when my organizational system failed (Verizon somehow deleted ALL of my messages...thanks for that, btw.) I missed things. I missed deadlines to submit blogs. I lost emails that had addresses of contest winners. I missed going to blogs that had already been submitted to answer comments and chat.

My system of depending on old emails to remind me was a ... bad one.

And as a former legal secretary (back in the days when legal secretaries did a lot of paralegal work and kept track of EVERYTHING in a case) I hung my head in shame.

So I thought back to those days and set up a calendar/schedule system that wouldn't fail. And I put it on paper. No more system fail for me. (Thanks again, Verizon) But also, I created a Book of Everything.

Every password
Every reviewer
Every blog appearance
Every contest I'm hosting
Every winner of those contests
With check marks that tell me if I've sent the books!

I have birthdays in the book
Twitter handles for people I don't normally tweet but might someday want to
I have notes on how to use Goodreads
I have a list of contacts for workshops (emails of course)
And contacts for blogs

I have a list of people who make covers for self-pubbing
And a list of people who edit
People who format

You know...rather than go on and on...Let's just say I have lots of lists. They are my memory (in some respects), not because I'm slow and dull, but because it's easier to have a book I can lay my hands on to find just about anything I want, rather than have to stand for five minutes trying to remember how to do something or find someone.

I know there are probably better, more technologically advanced ways to do this, but have one computer crash and you'll be glad you have a Book of Everything!

Anyway, my point is...

We no longer get to write a book, revise the book, read the AA's and cross our fingers, hoping for sales. We have to do a lot of things. I started off my career being reasonably organized but technology crept up on me and one day I woke up realizing I was so far behind I might not ever get caught up. And I had to go to work on promoting myself and using social media. Everyday I learn something but at least now I don't forget what I learned!

So, though you don't have to create a paper notebook like mine, you should have some systems in place. At the very least, you need a list of passwords (which you probably don't want in your computer), along with a list of email contacts and a solid calendar that doesn't just keep track of things, it comes with reminders about a week before things are due!

It's never too early to have a contact list, a blog list, a reviewer list. Start them now before you're on book #50 and you'll have smooth sailing long before I did. LOL

Happy Monday


Monday, September 10, 2012

Coming up with "fresh" stuff...

Two months ago, I started my 49th book. As you can imagine, by book 49, it's a little difficult to come up with something you've never written before. As a category romance author, I have to stick with hooks. Not just the things I'm known for writing, babies and kids, but I also have to add a billionaire, or marriage of convenience, close proximity, nanny or something that adds to the experience our readers are looking for.

And because I am giving readers the expected child/baby, as well as a well loved hook, I then have to spice up the story with something special.

In book 49, I'd decided cupcakes were the way to go because who doesn't love a good cupcake? But, seriously, can a woman support herself and three kids selling cupcakes in a small town? I didn't think so.

I turned to my trusty list of 20...

I wrote: What are twenty cool, interesting jobs I haven't yet explored in a story that could enhance the story somehow? But on second thought, I changed the question a bit. I said...

If I could be anything right now, what would I want to be?

Because my niece was in the throes of planning her wedding, the idea of becoming a wedding cake baker jumped out at me. (At about #13 on the list! LOL) And when I began investigating the you bake a cake, how you decorate, how you make those great flowers and edible decorations...even how you deliver a cake...I found videos on YouTube.

The videos made it very easy to get a good handle on the job so I could subtly insinuate the "cake baking" stuff into the story. The research on cake delivery actually provided journey steps (or plot points) for the story. I didn't just drop her occupation into the story. I used it to make the book fresh and interesting.

Not boring! LOL I didn't info dump. I didn't force readers to endure entire segments about her job that were dropped in with no rhyme or reason. I incorporated her cake baking into the plot. And, of course, made the hero a lover of cake. LOL

I took an online workshop last month that dealt with figuring out your career and who you are/want to be as a writer, given by the great Mary O'Gara. At one point, she said, write a list of 5 jobs you wish you could try in your lifetime. When we had done that she said, "Now figure out ways to incorporate these into a story...because researching them will be fun, using them as part of plot will be fun because they are things that already interest you..." And I jumped up and down like Horshak on WELCOME BACK KOTTER. I said, I did that! I did that! I just did that!

I told the class Mary was correct. The research was fun, invigorating. Using the career as PART OF THE PLOT was a challenge. A fun challenge. And in the end, I had a book that was fresh and interesting.

So...The next time you're beginning a book, do as Mary suggested. Come up with a list of five careers you'd like to try and virtually try them in a book. LOL Or do as I did and come up with a list of 20 careers for your hero or heroine which are fresh, interesting, different, that might freshen up your story a bit. Or at least enliven it with unique scenes and a fresh perspective! And then research it until you can actually make it part of the plot.

You'll make yourself happy, but you'll also come up with a fresher story!

Happy Monday!


Monday, September 3, 2012

No Info Dumps...

But give us something. 

I recently read a few contest entries and the one thing that stood out was the lack of info dumps. It was impressive -- sort of. I get it that most writers hate those big sections of a character "thinking" about his or her past as they walk to a door or drive up to a house, but I'm not convinced readers do.

For one, reading those contest entries I was struck by how little I knew about each character. Which meant not all of their actions were properly motivated to me. Things like: After the way her boyfriend treated her, she wouldn't let another man insult her...don't tell me much. Seriously. After the way her boyfriend treated her, she wouldn't let another man insult her...says to me that her old boyfriend insulted her. But how? And is it really enough to warrant her being bitchy to a stranger -- who had done nothing to her? Because that's what I see a lot in contest entries. Strong heroines, willing to stand up to and even insult the hero, all in the name of some unknown thing that happened to her  in the past. And if I don't know what it is, then I might not like your heroine.

I get it that you don't want info dumps, but you've got to give us something. Something clear and substantial that will show us motivation and in that motivation a reason to root for the heroine not question her. 

By the way, this doesn't mean the hero needs to know (or visa versa). For story purposes, you can string him along as long as it fits your story. But readers need to know motivation. 

So take those nice one-line character hints you've been taught to write and fill them with meat. That simple one line above could have tons of info in it. In fact, if you want a little homework I'd suggest you take a few minutes and pack that line with some meat! Change it around a little bit so that we get a fact about what the heroine's ex-boyfriend did, something that would make her sympathetic rather than overly sensitive.

I think that could be fun.

So here's my attempt... After the way her boyfriend announced his engagement to another woman  at a party she thought was meant to show her off as his new girl friend, she didn't really trust men anymore.


After the way her boyfriend fired her at a board of directors meeting to save his own behind, she really didn't trust anyone anymore.

What's yours?

Happy Monday

susan meier

Monday, August 27, 2012

Character Growth

We all know characters need to grow in novels. The Susan Meier definition of plot even says...Plot is all the steps it takes a character to get from who he or she is at the beginning of the book (the terrible trouble, inciting incident, day/moment everything changed) to who he or she is at the satisfying conclusion.

Nothing wrong with that. It also doesn't seem too complicated. We all know characters must grow.

But do you really understand what character growth is and how some of the craziest things can mess up your character?

A character ISN'T growing if, every time he steps away from the heroine rather than kiss her, he uses the same excuse in his head.


"But he wouldn't kiss her because his divorce had soured him on love." Next near miss, "He stepped away, tempted, but so soured on love he knew he'd never have another serious relationship." Next near miss, "Thoughts of his crappy divorce simmered in his gut. Much as he'd love to kiss her, his divorce still rankled."

They all work. They all make sense. They all provide motivation for the character's behavior. But we don't see any character growth.

So...If his divorce really is the genesis of his internal conflict...and he really shouldn't be kissing do we handle it?  Can we change these three lines which will pop up in three different places in such a way that they show growth?


I'm not going to show you how, but I'll give you some clues.

First, character growth isn't an increase in height (or weight). Second, people (themselves) really don't change. Their beliefs do.

So as you are writing about a hero who is having trouble getting involved with the heroine, HE isn't changing. His beliefs about his divorce, himself, what he wants out of life...and maybe even the heroine herself ... are evolving.

So he might not kiss her in the first encounter by simply reminding himself that since his divorce he's decided not to get involved ever again.

In almost kiss two, he'd be more tempted..maybe because she's changing his opinion of women. But the very fact that his opinion is changing would scare him...cause him to step back to examine that opinion before he did something he might regret. Hence, no kiss. But lots of demonstration that his beliefs are changing and he is evolving.

In almost kiss three, he'd have examined the fact that his opinion of women is changing so he wouldn't think of that...BUT...he might think about HER, the heroine, how a kiss might affect her. Which would demonstrate real growth for him. Because now he's not just selfishly thinking of his own broken heart, or how HE feels about women, he's considering the impact of a kiss on her.

So even though we start off with a guy who won't kiss the heroine because he's bitter about his divorce, he evolves into a guy whose feelings are changing, as his beliefs are changing. He's growing. We aren't rehashing the same stuff and readers won't feel they're back on page one!

Happy Monday

susan meier

Monday, August 20, 2012

I'm back

Anybody who follows me on twitter or facebook knows I've had a bit of a bad couple of weeks. Some things were my son being hospitalized and my main computer dying (still haven't replaced that so I'm on a laptop that hates me). Other things were fun like my niece's wedding. Other things we just won't mention. :)

But I'm back. And my head is full of great ideas for blogs about writing...Like this one:

Don't shy away from your scene.

I read a lot of stuff: friends' manuscripts, published books, contest entries, books for quotes...and the one thing that always amazes me is the shied-away-from scene. It's the saddest thing I see when I critique or read for contests because the author doesn't realize she's missed a chance to wow us.

I read a book about a decade ago wherein this group of paranormal creatures was preparing for battle. Tough guys were bragging. More sensitive types were praying or saying goodbyes to loved ones. They were fighting for a cause and they had to go -- but it was difficult. The build up was fantastic.

Chapter ends. I turn the page. And this is a paraphrase of what I get...

After the battle, the survivors got back on their horses and surveyed the scene...

What? No battle? But, all those wonderful characters has scores to settle and enemies to face...what happened?

We don't know. The dead were named. The author told us they had fought valiantly, but we never saw the battle.

Now, I'm not a ghoul, but when something is led up to the way this battle was, I want to see the battle.

Similarly, right after I began writing, I read a book where chapter two started off with the heroine punching out of her car, scrambling up the walk, saying, "Don't you walk away from me after what you did to me in town!"

And I'm thinking, "Oh, what did he do to her in town?"

He spins around..."You deserved what I did!"

Really? What'd he do?

"I've never been so embarrassed."

I've never been so curious.

"I should slap you..."

Slap him? Really? What the heck did he do?

I went back to chapter 1 to see if I'd missed something. I hadn't. It took four pages of banter (which was not good btw if only because it was so vague) before one of the characters actually told us what had happened in town and it was cool. I thought...Gee, why didn't you show us that scene?

I had a guess. I guessed the author was a pantser who had started that second chapter with the punched-open door and could only follow up such a dramatic character movement with some dramatic dialogue.  "Don't walk away from me after what you did to me in town." Then, after writing that, she needed to think of something the hero had done in town, and she did. She came up with something great -- without realizing that what she'd done was made the "reason" more interesting than the argument itself.

I've done that. Actually, it's very much a part of the creative process. We can't know everything about our books before we start. We also don't "get" our stories in chronological order. Sometimes we get the  "sequel" argument before the scene. If that's the case, don't panic...just write the scene! Don't try to explain it in weird dialogue that will leave the readers feel she's missing something.

But the battle? Why wouldn't an author show us a battle? Especially, a battle she'd built to? Frankly, I think the author believed her aftermath scene more important than the actual battle.

Or maybe she didn't know how to write a fight scene?

Or maybe there were so many characters involved that the scene itself would have been huge or overwhelming?

Or maybe she was squeamish about writing about blood and gore?

No matter what the reason that's not my problem as a reader.

However, when I, as a reader, get annoyed because I feel like I was left out, it IS the author's problem.

You can't be afraid of scenes. You can't be afraid of the emotions that need to be on the page, or the details needed to create a scene that's true to life.

If you're writing erotica you need to know how to write fantastic, detailed sex. If you're writing a paranormal about battling tribes of unicorns you need to know how to write about battles (and unicorns). If you're writing a romance you need to show us the steps of the characters falling in love, not skip one because you're not sure how to write it.

If I told you what I was working on right now, you would laugh yourself silly, but it's a project that interests me ... Actually, it intrigues me. Because it's suspense, not romance, I am back to the books, learning how to craft certain types of scenes. I'm researching, getting my facts straight...not figuring out how to work 'around' things that make me uncomfortable...but studying. So that when I actually write this book, I can go where the story leads me...not fake it. Not dance around the blood and guts and gore. Not use transitions that give facts but shortchange readers of the adventure.

Because in the final analysis, all books are an adventure. Falling in love is as much of an adventure for romance readers as saving the world is for thriller readers or investigating for mystery readers.

If you fake, pretend, work around, transition your way through the book, you cheat your readers but you also cheat yourself out of some of the most fun parts of writing a book.

So do the background work, albeit research or craft study, and both you and your reader will love your book. :)

Happy Monday...

And glad to be back, by the way! LOL

susan meier

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fast Draft

I've never gone to Candace Havens' fast draft class, but she did hand out a list of 10 "rules" for fast drafting that I'd read and I was intrigued by the idea of writing like the wind and getting things done so quickly.

So when a few friends and I decided last week to go full speed ahead and fast draft our books, I was excited. I liked the list. I figured I could do it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I wasn't starting from scratch. I had an "accepted-by-Harlequin" proposal. 50 whole pages and a detailed synopsis.

I spent Monday reviewing what I had ... so I figured that would make my weekly total shabby. But, at the end of the week I had 60 brand-spanking new pages!

So now I have 110 pages of a 220 page book!

I like Candace's idea of pushing yourself so your subconscious can just go! I like the idea of not letting your internal editor make you insane. (Because we all know she can.) But I'd also listened to some pantsers talk the week before about how their endings just kind of pop up, exactly what's needed, when it's needed...and, well, I envied that.

I take so much time figuring things out (and I love that -- so I'm not going to stop) that every once in awhile I think it's good to remind ourselves that writing is supposed to be fun. And sometimes it's fun to just push and see what comes out. Free fall. Have some fun. See where your subconscious takes you!

For more info about fast's the url for Candace's blog.

Happy Monday!


Monday, July 2, 2012

a little thing I like to call talent

Because this is a holiday week, I'm not much in the mood to talk about crafting...except to tell you that maybe, sometimes, you're a lot smarter than you think.

I'm teaching a class right now called Journey Steps, a no-frills guide to plotting.  And believe me, when I say it's no's no frills!

I tell each person in the class after lesson 2 or 3 to go into his or her WIP and look for the action/reaction/decision sequence. Even if they've never heard of this sequence before, most will find it working (and working well) in their manuscripts.

I like to call that talent. Instinct. :) There's a part of us that kinda sorta already knows to do this. We don't need to be "taught" just reminded.

Same is true for knowing when a journey step (which is a step in the hero or heroine's journey) needs to be an entire scene, a few pages, or maybe just a paragraph or a sentence. As I say in the workshop, if we're with the hero as he fights a barn fire do we really need to take a walk through the charred ruins to know his horses are dead?

Probably not.

But...the very fact that our instincts tell us to just give the journey step as a succinct sentence is yet another proof of talent.

We may struggle sometimes with whose POV to use for a scene or what the heck should happen next, but when we're cooking that stuff just seems to come out of thin air.

And in the end, our books work.

So since this is a holiday week and we all should be taking a break, appreciating our kids, our country, our spouses...let's also take a second or two to respect and appreciate our talent.

It's not easy to write books. If it were, everyone would be doing it. (Well, in this day and age of self-pubs a lot of folks are!) But not everyone is...So thank God for your country, your kids, your spouse and add in a thanks for your talent.

Give yourself that little bit of recognition!

Happy Monday!


Monday, June 25, 2012

The Lost Importance of Bad Books

This is going to be a weird blog. At least some people will think so. If you've read the free workshop on my website, HOW TO ANALYZE THE BOOKS YOU READ, you know that I love bad books.


Heck yeah.

First off, what's bad to one person might not be bad to another. Taste is subjective. (To say the least.)

Second, before the days of indie publishing, even the worst book had been bought by an editor and that meant there was a reason she'd bought that book. I always believed if I could figure out the reason the editor bought the book, I'd also be figuring out one of the things she was "looking for" for her publisher or line.

For instance, decades ago, I read a book I considered dreadful. Though it was a romance, the hero and heroine were barely together. I thought, "Why the heck did this editor buy this book...or maybe why'd he or she publish it as a romance when it was barely a romance."

It was a real stumper until I went to a conference, back in the day when conferences were "the" place to get information, and an editor from this publisher said, "We are looking for angel books. Send us anything you have that has an angel in it." I thought...Bingo. The book I didn't believe was romancy enough had an angel. And apparently angels were selling.

Though it sounds unorthodox, if you're really trying to crack the code of what a publisher is looking for, take a look at the worst reviewed books for that publisher or line. Recognize that a review is just one person's taste. :) But then look for common denominators among those poorly reviewed books. Are they all baby stories? Funny books? Vampires? Dark. Family-oriented. Populated with secondary characters. Or maybe populated only by the hero and heroine?

Whatever the connection THAT'S what that publisher is looking for. Maybe because they see it as the next big thing? Maybe because that's what's selling for them now? Maybe because that was a specific editor's taste? Who knows? LOL Whatever the reason that's what they're buying.

I'm still a firm believer that a writer should never totally diss a bad book. Especially if it's been traditionally published. First, as I said, it may be a great book that you simply don't like -- in which case you can certainly learn from it. But, second, that book may hold the key to the "likes" or "must haves" or "want to sees" for that publisher or line.

Unless you're going indie, we're all trying to please an editor. Any crack in the code is a good one.

Happy Monday!


Monday, June 18, 2012

Knowing your story

So far this year I've taught four workshops. Two on conflict. One on revising. And now we're doing Journey Steps (a no-frills guide to plotting).

Doing these four back-to-back, I noticed that I consistently tell people to write a one-sentence or one-paragraph story summary.

Why do I torture people that way?

Because you need a guide. You might not need to know details but you need at least an idea of what kind of story you're writing, the external conflicts, the big picture, so that you start your story in the right place and the right way.

If you want to get a little more can then move onto a storyboard. I love storyboards because they help me to "see" my story.

That's actually what I did all last week. I plotted out my next book on a storyboard so I could see it at a glance. Of course, first I went to Staples and bought poster board and lots of colored markers...there's no reason a storyboard can't be fun. And in the end you have a very clear picture of your story. In living color if you choose!

Little tools like these seem to take up so much time that we think it's easier to just jump into the book and start writing...esp if you have a good idea for your first chapter.

But, trust me, having a one-line explnation of your story and  a storyboard can actually save you more time than you ever expend creating them.

Plus, playing with colored markers and post-it notes is fun. :)

No matter where you are in your story right now, consider doing a storyboard. Write out your journey steps (the purpose for each scene) on a post it and slap those babies on a piece of poster board by chapter. You'll be surprised how easy it will be to write from that point on...and how easily you'll see mistakes. :( We don't like mistakes, but once we find them, we fix them and then move on.

And, really, isn't that better than struggling! (Or rereading your entire manuscript every time you forget what came before.)

Happy Monday


Monday, June 11, 2012

Getting Back in the Groove

I spent last week in Virginia Beach with my family...three sisters and their families and a Whitman Sampler selection of in-laws. Not to mention, me, my husband and our son--who almost drowned, but that's another blog post.

I took an entire briefcase of work with the best of intentions of getting up before everyone and working. As it turned out, I wasn't the earliest riser and it was ... well, nice to have people to talk to over toast and coffee. (It can be very lonely to live with two adult males who believe grunting is morning conversation.)

After chatting every morning, I took a walk on the beach. I'd come back sweaty and since I was already in my suit, I'd swim. Then read, then play yatzee...well, you get the picture. Writing just didn't factor in. Except on Thursday when I had to write 2 pages or my head would have exploded.

So, here it is Monday. I'm not behind because I'd sent a proposal in the Friday before I left (LOL...sneaky, huh?). But I could have "written ahead" last week so now I'll be starting where I should have been last Monday. So I have a "behind the eight-ball" feeling.

So the first self-talk I did this morning was to remind myself of Rule #1...don't panic. So you took a off week or (or a day or even 2 weeks or a month)? This is life and sometimes life interferes. Frankly, I seriously needed a vacation. It probably did my writing mojo more good to get a break than to write when I was mentally exhausted. The same may be true for you. Sometimes you need to take a break. And sometimes life just plain won't give you time to write. Don't beat yourself up. Do not panic. Be grateful when the moment comes and you can sit down to write! Be grateful! Not grumpy. Or scared. Or panicky. Give yourself a break.

But...Rule #2...eventually you have to get back to it. And that might mean getting out a wet noodle and whipping yourself. You may indeed have to force yourself to sit in the chair and open a Word document. You may need to bribe yourself...Hey, I'll buy you an ice cream cone if you write five pages today.

But...Rule #3...don't lie to yourself. Do not give yourself the ice cream until AFTER you've written the five pages. But, also, don't tell yourself that "reading" somebody's book is writing. Email's not writing either. Neither is twitter or facebook.

Writing is writing. I count synopses. I count storyboards. I count outlines. I count real pages. I even count lists of twenty. Because they are all work that goes toward creating a story.

I do not count my ezine or even my writing workshops. They are writing of a sort but they are not work that gets me into a new fiction project/book.

Rule #4...just think how good you'll feel after you've accomplished a new outline, five pages, a synopsis. Seriously, when you sit at your computer, close your eyes, pretend you're, don't pretend. Actually imagine what it will feel like when you are done. Feel the rush. Feel the relief. Feel the pride. Then think of what it would be like if you'd written ten pages or twenty...Let yourself experience the rush of happiness, confidence, success...then open your eyes and start typing! LOL

I'm about to get going myself. So maybe if I say one-two-three start, we can all begin this glorious Monday morning together?

Happy Monday!


Monday, June 4, 2012

Was ... Little Word Big Problem

I know. I know. We all use was. I use was. But lately it's been jumping out at me when I'm reading. Especially when I'm reading descriptions. Was might as well be wearing bells and flashing red lights that's how much it stands out when I'm reading.

Same deal with felt.

Same deal with thought.

I'm driving myself nuts in my own writing trying to keep them out because they screw up deep point of view. And I love deep point of view. I love writing with deep point of view if only because, let's face it, it takes fewer words to say, "Heat shimmied through her" than "She felt heat shimmy through her." But when reading, deep point of view literally makes you the characters.

And as a reader I just love that.

I don't think anybody should be shot for using was or felt or thought or decided...because then I'd have to be shot because I'm sure they still sneak into my work. And there are times when was is the only word you can use! There are times when thought or felt or decided also are necessary.

But those of you who began writing after Deep Point of View became popular are lucky.

Anyway, that's it for today.

Just a little something to think about.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Good, Better, Best

I have a really, really crappy book in my past. I never tell anybody which book it is. I figure the less I talk about it the more hidden it will stay.
Yesterday was one of those days, though, when it just sort of jumped out at me on the bookshelf, cover faced forward, the hero and heroine staring at me.

I said, "Stop that! Stop looking at me!" But there it was. Hero and heroine just staring at me, sort of accusing me of letting them down. LOL

Because I did let them down and yesterday, as I stared at their cover, I asked myself why. Or maybe how. How does a reasonably good author write a gaggle of good books and then produce a raging lemon?

I came up withe three things.

1. Rushing.
2. Surface skimming.
3. Writing what people expected me to write, not what my characters were telling me.

Actually, we're going to take them backward and start with writing what other people expect me to write not what my characters were telling me.

These two characters were cute and fun. The story I put them in didn't really suit them. If I'd have thought about that long and hard enough I would have seen that. But...I didn't have time to think it through.

So I skimmed the SURFACE of the story. I knew exactly what marks I had to hit with these two and we hit them, but we never really got to know the characters and, let's face it, readers read to get to know the characters to sort of 'be' the characters for 200 or so pages. And though surface writing gets things done, it doesn't allow readers a chance to get to know the characters.

Which takes us to rushing. I had a deadline. I had to meet it. The only way I could meet it was to write the book. (Duh.)


I also didn't have the tools at my disposal that I have now. I didn't know to write a one-paragraph story summary to get to the heart of the story quickly. I didn't know how to create a storyboard so I could "see" the major steps of each chapter and see how they meshed. I didn't know much about character arcs. About threading the growth of both of my characters through that storyboard so I could make sure they both grew...but also make sure that readers really got to know both characters.

I know better now. I know A LOT better now. (Laugh. I did.) But the thing is...that book never comes off my book shelf. It is one of my almost 50 books and will be forever.

That reminder is just a little something for all of us to ponder in this day and age of self-publishing. Every book you publish becomes part of "who you are" as an author. True, you can pull it from Amazon if or when you realize you didn't give your bad book a good shot...but you can't get it back from everybody who bought it.

And sure as shootin' just when you least want it to that sucker will surface! LOL

Happy Monday


Monday, May 21, 2012

Reading Makes Me a Better Writer

As you read this, hopefully sipping coffee and eating a doughnut, I'll be asleep at the oral surgeon's, having two teeth extracted. Yuck.

But I digress...

This month I had the chance to read some great books. One by Laura Kaye, which hasn't yet been released. (I read it for a cover quote.) One by Jennifer Probst. One by Jill Shalvis. (I'm loving the Lucky Harbor Series!)

I'm a very slow reader. I love to savor every word in a book. Which means I love books by great wordsmiths.

As I was finishing off my last book, book 8 of the Larkville Continuity series for Harlequin Romance, I suddenly noticed I'd become seriously poetic. Even I was amazed at some of the beautiful prose coming out of the tips of my fingers. And I realized that as I read authors of beautiful prose -- Kaye, Probst and Shalvis are truly some of the most beautiful writers I've read -- their goodness rubbed off on me.

Or maybe it made me more aware and caused me to think about everything happening in the moment of my scene. The sky. The scents. The kiss of the sun. The trembling perfection of a hero's touch. A slammed door. A baby's muscial giggle. Those are the things that pull readers into a story. Because that's where they want to be ... in the story. Not dumped or dropped there, but lured and tempted by beautiful words and phrases that draw them in.

Sometimes when we're working so hard on our story, trying to set everything up and get everything in, we forget to lure and tempt.

And that's where great books come in. All it takes is ten minutes of having an author lure me into her story to remind me that I'm not just trying to write 50,000 words that make sense, I'm supposed to be entertaining someone...luring her into my story.

So take a look at your book today. Especially your first chapter. Are you luring readers into your story? Or draging them along kicking and screaming? :)

Happy Monday...and remember no matter what you're doing today, you're having more fun than I am! LOL


Monday, May 14, 2012

Conflict and the Category Romance

Today I began teaching a workshop CONFLICT AND THE CATEGORY ROMANCE. I'm not going to give away the farm of the workshop because people paid good money to hear my thoughts. :) does make me want to say...

All books are about conflict.

When we say conflict referring to a category romance novel, we are primarily talking about about a struggle to fall in love.

So maybe your thriller isn't primarily about a struggle to fall in love, but it is still about a struggle. So is your mystery. Your paranormal. Your steampunk. Your coming of age YA.

People like struggle. Maybe not so much in our real lives, but we respect and appreciate struggle in our fiction. Because we've all struggled and felt the glorious feeling of victory after we've overcome, we understand the emotions involved and we can live vicariously through a character in a book who is struggling. We especially love the victorious feeling when the characters have overcome -- in the happy ending or satisfying conclusion.


Are your people struggling? As I said, in a category romance the main struggle is to fall in love...or avoid it...thinking it's not the right thing. But in your thriller your characters should be struggling. Your protagonist in your mystery should be struggling to find answers. Your protagonist in your coming of age story should be struggling.

And through it all, your protagonist should be growing.

Because no one emerges victorious after a struggle without growing.

Which is really what readers want to see. They want to experience an adventure of struggle, which results in real growth and ultimately a victory.

Happy Monday!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Conflict and the Category Romance Starts Next Week

Conflict and the Category Romance

Instructor: Susan Meier. Is there a difference between the conflicts of a single title romance and a category romance? Is there a difference between the conflicts of a long category and a short category? What purposes do conflicts serve in a category romance? Is there a way to use your conflict for more than a stumbling block for the romance? Can it also push your story forward?

Join multi-published category romance author and Entangled editor Susan Meier as she answers these questions and more in her workshop CONFLICT AND THE CATEGORY ROMANCE. See how to use banter, why we use a ‘format’ not a formula, how mining your characters’ pasts creates the richest conflicts, and learn tricks for getting emotion and “layering” into your story.
WHEN: May 14, 2012 - Jun 10, 2012

COST: $20 for Premium Members
$30 for Basic Members

Cancellation policy: Registrations are non-refundable except when the workshop is cancelled by Savvy Authors.

REGISTRATION: Click Here to Register at Premium Member rate


Savvy Authors
Susan Meier is an editor for Entangled Publishing and the author of 50 books for Harlequin and Silhouette and one of Guideposts' Grace Chapel Inn series books, The Kindness of Strangers. Her books have been finalists in many RWA Chapter contests and National Reader's Choice Awards and have been nominated for Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice awards, including her December 2011 release KISSES ON HER CHRISTMAS LIST. She is a recipient of several Reviewer's Choice Awards. Her 2012 releases are THE TYCOON’S SECRET DAUGHTER and NANNY FOR THE MILLIONAIRE’S TWINS. 

Susan loves to teach as much as she loves to write and is a popular speaker at RWA chapter conferences. Can This Manuscript Be Saved? and Journey Steps, No Frills Guide to Plotting! are her most requested workshops. Her article “How to Write a Category Romance” appeared in 2003 Writer’s Digest Novel and Short Story Markets.  Susan also gives online workshops for various groups and her articles regularly appear in RWA chapter newsletters. In 2012 she will be presenting four new online workshops, Let Conflict Tell Your Story for You, Conflict and the Category Romance, Sweet Romances: Moving the Relationship Forward Without Sex and Self-Editing. 

Her popular Monday morning blog, Dear Writers, features weekly writing lessons taken from her experiences with submissions, revisions and successes.
Tags: Craft, Plotting, Beginning

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What to do when editor comments don't help...

or don't make sense!

I recently got a revision letter from my editor. I thought she wanted the entire ending of my book changed. So when I sent her a little tiddy about how I planned to accomplish that, she called and said...NO! I only wanted tweaks.


How could two people who have worked together so long miss the mark completely?

I don't know. :) But taking what she said to me in our phone conversation and mixing it with the revision letter, the revision still felt like more than tweaks to me.

So what did I do?

Well, as always, I read the book the whole way through, trying to get a feel for what she was thinking...what she was seeing...what she wanted the book to be like in the end.

I realized she wanted two things, so I went in and marked all the places that would be affected by the two things she wanted. (You can use post-its to do this...or colored markers. I used colored markers.)

Then I saved the electronic copy of the manuscript under a new name...Revisions April 30. So that I would still have a copy of the original version in my computer in case I made a mistake.

Then one by one I scrolled to those pink and yellow marked places and made some changes.

Every morning when I opened the document I'd read what I'd done the day before so I'd see what was there and what wasn't. (What I'd deleted and what I'd added!)

When I got to the black moment, which needed the most changing, I created a storyboard not just to "see" what I had to that point, but also looking for a hook in to the plot, something original  [or obvious] that I could use to springboard the black moment.

I wrote the new black moment and today I'll read over the "ending"...the last chapter, the epilogue.

But to get back to my point...Sometimes you can't always "get" what your editor wants done from her letter. Sometimes you have to go into the book and actually "look" for what she means. My editor's comments related to the heroine and the ending and once I started reading I did see what she meant. Though it took some thinking and analyzing. LOL

It's not easy working with someone else on a creative project. We all have a "vision" for what we want and sometimes the editor gets a vision that doesn't match yours!

But a little creative thinking on your part...reading the book with her letter at your well as an open mind [I can't stress open mind enough! :D ] can result in you figuring things out!

Have a happy Tuesday...Sorry I missed Monday, but revisions really do take all my focus! :)


Monday, April 30, 2012


Over the weekend, I gave my workshop CAN THIS MANUSCRIPT BE SAVED at the Chicago Spring Fling Conference.

Revising isn't easy. That's why I've been keeping track of how I've done it for the past 24 years. :)

But a bigger question came up before the workshop started. An early bird attendee, the first in the room, said to me, I hope you're going to tell us how we know something CAN be saved...and when to just toss it.

I thought about that on the plane home. In the workshop I hit the highlights of how you can look at your work and determine "what's wrong" and then "how to fix it" but I don't think I ever really say...Give it up!

So are there times when you should give up?

Yes. I thought of three.

1.  If you've been writing the same book for 20 years (or even 3) and you just can't get it right...Hang it up. Not because the story is bad or even the writing, but because there is something funadmentally wrong with the book and a fresh story (keeping in mind all the things you learned while working on the one you're walking away from) will probably jumpstart your creativity!
2. If you've been writing the same book for two to five years (like a prison sentence), ignoring all the new ideas that are popping into your head because you want to GET THIS ONE might be losing the opportunity to get published because you're focused on something that clearly isn't working.
3.  If you hate the book. I've honest-to-Pete have had people come up to me at workshops and say, I've been working on this turkey so long that I hate it, but...and I stop them right there. If you HATE something, how can you make it great? At best you will make it workable...

And workable just doesn't cut it in this day and age. Your book needs to be great. It needs to entertain, not just contain 400 pages of text that makes sense.

To write a great book, you need to infuse it with life and energy. If you hate something...can you infuse it with life and energy?

So...If you've been working on something for a really long time and it keeps failing, you need to walk away, move on to something else and jumpstart your creativity. If you have tons of better ideas popping into your head that you're might be wise to move onto one of those "better" ideas. And, if you hate the book you're working on, even if it's the best idea in recorded's best to move on.

Happy Monday

susan back-from-Chicago meier

Monday, April 23, 2012

Yesterday was my birthday and I took the weekend off! (I can't even begin to tell you how rare that is.)

So for the writers among us looking for my weekly post...scroll down. There are lots of writing posts.

And, you can also read the past issues of the ezine. There are lots of actual workshop lessons in there. In fact, there's an entire workshop, THE POWER OF QUESTIONS, that runs (one lesson per ezine) through the past eight ezines.

Happy birthday to me!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Okay, here it is...the one everybody's asked for...

Conflict and the Category Romance

Instructor: Susan Meier. Is there a difference between the conflicts of a single title romance and a category romance? Is there a difference between the conflicts of a long category and a short category? What purposes do conflicts serve in a category romance? Is there a way to use your conflict for more than a stumbling block for the romance? Can it also push your story forward?

Join multi-published category romance author and Entangled editor Susan Meier as she answers these questions and more in her workshop CONFLICT AND THE CATEGORY ROMANCE. See how to use banter, why we use a ‘format’ not a formula, how mining your characters’ pasts creates the richest conflicts, and learn tricks for getting emotion and “layering” into your story.
WHEN: May 14, 2012 - Jun 10, 2012

COST: $20 for Premium Members
$30 for Basic Members

Cancellation policy: Registrations are non-refundable except when the workshop is cancelled by Savvy Authors.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The First Three Chapters

It seems like every other month I'm writing a new proposal! LOL

I'm really not. It just seems like it. Why? Because beginnings are difficult. Actually, physically writing a book is labor intensive. But if you have a good synopsis...that should springboard your imagination for scenes and basically though you're typing your fingers off, you shouldn't be struggling -- well, at least not too much.

Coming up with an idea and honing that idea into something special takes lots of brain power. Which is why it's so darned hard to write a synopsis!

But the first chapter is the real bugger for me.

In the first chapter of a romance novel, you have to:

Introduce the Characters
Introduce the External Conflict (which usually involves a goal)
Introduce the Internal Conflict
Show us why these two conflicted characters would stay together when ... well, they're so conflicted.
And hook readers in.

In category romance lots of writers think "hooking" readers in involves an actual hook. LOL It can. But I prefer to hook in readers by ...  entertaining them.

I'm a big fan of reading. [Aren't we all? :)] But I've put down many a book because it didn't entertain me. You don't have to be Bozo the Clown juggling bowling pins. You don't have to be Roseann Barr, making me laugh. But you have to amuse, entertain or make me curious enough to hang out with you and your characters for 200 or 400 pages.

You won't do that by opening your book with a scene with either the hero or heroine dusting, petting her cat or weeding her garden...unless the hero shows up and the fun starts.

I want to read a first scene that's relevant. I want the conflict to be obvious from action not because you wrote..."They didn't like each other." I wanna see them not liking each other.

I also want to hear the starting pistol of the action. What's the goal? Don't tell me. Show me.

And give me a sweep of emotion.

Ah, emotion!  That's what I really want.

In my latest book...the one I'm agonizing over now...When the hero leaves after a first scene where they're fumbling because it's the first time they've seen each other in a decade and neither knows what to say because she stood him up ... the heroine falls to the sofa, picks up a pillow and presses her face into it. Her four-year-old son comes in and says, "What's wong, Mommy?" and she thinks...That was Owen with his little lisp and his big heart. She  lifted her face and smiled for him. Just as she'd never tell him his grandfather was a drunk who'd beaten her; she wouldn't tell him that the love of her life just walked out of their house and she'd probably never see him again.

Hooked you, didn't I? Because I showed you this woman is sweet through how she loves her son. (Who is adorable, by the way.) You like her and her son.

She'd never tell him his grandpa was a drunk who'd beaten her ... She's suffered and struggled. And now you don't want to see her lose the love of her life anymore than she does.

Hopefully, I've connected you to this woman and you're rooting for her to get the hero.

So, first chapters are tough. Synopses are worse! And I have to finish three chapters and my synopsis before Wednesday...wish me luck!

Happy Monday!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Awful Truth About...Jelly Beans!

I just got an email from a company warning me about the awful truth about some health thing.

I get these emails all the time. I know they are relevant, but, you know... when I read the words...The Awful Truth About...and I knew I was going to get a health lesson ... I was sort of hoping they would say The Awful Truth about Jelly Beans.

They've been my nemisis this week. I love the Jolly Rancher jelly beans. I buy an extra bag (or 2) for myself to eat before Easter gets here and the week after. Now, I can barely buckle my jeans.

Yes. I understand that some of these warnings I get are important...but every once in a while I'd love to see them hit real life and warn me off my drug of choice...Jelly Beans.

Happy Sunday!

If you're a writer, looking for my writing post, scroll down. And come back tomorrow when I talk about first chapters!


Monday, April 9, 2012

In May 2012 I will be doing a workshop for Savvy Authors CONFLICT AND THE CATEGORY ROMANCE.

I'm never really sure why I get inspired or where inspiration comes from, but today I feel strongly that I need to write a post called Don't Panic.

It might be from my own experience. A few days ago, I stopped cold on the project I was working on. Something was "off" but I couldn't figure out what it was. Oh, and did I mention the book was due on was Wednesday when I stalled.

So, as I sat there without a thought in my brain, my husband came into my office with a slice of pizza. "Sarah needs help moving this afternoon. Wanna come?" (Sarah is our daughter.) The translation for that question was: It's a long, boring drive. I could use company.

I looked at the bad, bad, uncooperative book, looked at him. Technically, I should have stayed behind and fixed that bugger...but, you know what? I didn't know how. And Sarah needed help. What mother could refuse that?

We piled in my husband's truck, drove the hour and a half to her new house, unloaded funiture in boxes that she'd bought from Walmart...and got out a tool box to put it together. As my husband read directions and tried to match parts, I handed nuts and bolts, reread the directions and helped him try to match parts.

But about half way through with the sofa, I had a germ of an idea to fix my wayward story. I handed the nuts and bolts to Sarah, got the tablet from my purse and scribbled some stuff down. Convinced I now had my fix for the book, I went back to the nuts and bolts.

But fifteen minutes later, I thought of something else...handed the nuts to Sarah...and scribbled again.

About fifteen minutes after that, same deal. Nuts to Sarah. Scribble on tablet...Back to nuts.

We finished the futuriture and piled into the truck again and on the way home I felt really great. I had my idea. I could now fix my book. I ALMOST went back to work (we got home around 9:00) but my eyes were tired so I decided to wait until morning...and guess what? When I woke up I realized everything I'd thought of the day before wasn't quite right either...but I had a new idea. After sleeping on everything, my brain had come up with a scene that might be the best in the book.

Why am I telling you this? Because, first, I want you to note that even though I was in trouble with my book I didn't panic. I let my brain have some time to puzzle out what was wrong. Second, I didn't write prematurely. (I almost did...but luckily my eyes hurt.)

With five days until this book needed to go in, I could have panicked. I could have jumped the gun and taken that book in three wrong directions! All of which I eliminated just by taking some time off, writing notes on the ideas but not really writing until the best idea came to me the next morning.

We don't always have time to stop. And sometimes stopping feels so, so wrong. But every once in a while you have to give yourself some thinking space!

So don't panic when things aren't working out. Go do something else. Sure, take a notebook and jot down your ideas, but don't really write until you've given yourself some REAL time away!

Happy Monday


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Review and Contest!

Clean Reads has a review of BABY ON THE RANCH

We're also hosting a giveway of a $20 Amazon gift card. The contest runs April 5-16. Be sure to pop over and enter!

If you're a writer looking for my Monday Morning Writing blog...scroll down!


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Goodbye Michele

I got up early this morning...five...and immediately started working. By seven, I had seven pages of the new book. I posted a new lesson for a workshop I'm teaching, and then went to work finishing the third of three short stories I plan to self-publish.

I was truly on a roll until I paused to make coffee and read the newspaper and saw the obituary of one of my favorite friends from my past. Now, work is the last thing I want to do.

Michele and I met when she took my job at a law firm. I'd been fired. (You may laugh. I had many rough beginnings in life. I suppose I'll always be a little clumsy and clunky! :P) And she was fresh out of high school. She'd aced the typing and shorthand classes and was ready to do a job that had stumped me.

That amazed me, so I kind of watched her curiously, because my new job was right down the hall from the job from which I'd been fired! (The seventies were wacky times.) Anyway, she was smart and very nice, but also kind of crazy.

I liked crazy. I didn't have to be afraid of making stupid comments around her because she got my humor. But better than that she was one of the first people to encourage me as a writer.

We used to stand in Central Park at lunchtime and make up stories about the people hustling to lunch or ambling back to work from lunch. We tried to figure out what kind of families they had, or if they had kids, or if they were cheating...and eventually our stories got so outrageous they knit together like a soap opera and we called it Love of Lunch.

We drifted apart after I got married, and almost rekindled our friendship when we found ourselves working at the same law firm a few years later, but Michele moved on to bigger and better things.

But I never forgot Love of Lunch or the wonderfully normal way she made me feel about being just a tad crazy!

Rest in peace, Michele.


PS If you're a writer looking for one of the writing-lesson posts...just scroll down!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Story Summary 4 Growth Paragraph

Week four and our final one-paragraph story summary. The Growth Paragraph.

I like to use this type of story summary for pitching. Why? Because in most modern/commercial novels the hero (and/or heroine) needs to demonstrate growth. This one-paragraph version of your story takes that growth into consideration. It also encompasses theme. In most of my books, the “theme” of the story…forgiveness is hard, for instance…relates to that growth. So I came up with this simple formula to write out my story idea in one paragraph.

My novel is a [story type of genre]

About  [main character]

What [action/idea]

Who learns [theme]

And as a result [how does he reach his goal]


My novel is a suspense about a complacent grocery store manager being stalked by the teenager who works for him, who – when the kid moves on from terrorizing only him to terrorizing the whole town – learns that there are times in life when the system fails and you must take care of yourself and as a result musters both the internal fortitude and physical strength to take on the kid and win.

Do you see how having THAT information could not only help you come up with scene ideas, but also keep your book focused?

Again, you have turning points:

1.    Store manager being stalked

2.    Kid moves onto terrorizing the whole town

3.    The manager learns there are times in life when the system fails

4.    He musters the internal fortitude and physical strength

5.    He takes on the kid and wins.

It’s a very clear paragraph that gives you the heart of your story so that you don’t waste time with deviations or trying other paths.

And, again, learning to focus your story before you write it doesn't merely save time when you write, it results in a clearer, better book.

So, there you have them. The four one-paragraph story summaries. I can now confess that I typically use at least two of them when I'm creating a story. I like to look at my story from all angles so that I forage around until I find the BEST way to tell the story. The one with the most drama. The one I know will put readers on the edges of the emotional seats.

And now you can too.

Happy Monday

susan meier

Monday, March 26, 2012

Story Summary 3 Back Cover Blurb

For the past few weeks, we've been discussion different forms of one-paragraph story summaries. Today we discuss the Back Cover Blurb Paragraph.

If you’re a pantser who doesn’t want to outline because it will spoil the story fun for you, the back cover blurb paragraph is a great way to know just enough of your story to keep you on track, but not so much as to spoil your fun!
So let's get to it!
For decades editors and authors have been encapsulating their stories for the backs of their books to entice readers. And what’s the best way to entice readers? Show them the most important, most critical, most compelling part of your story.

i.e. Sam Montgomery had it all. Beautiful wife, smart kids, penthouse apartment. Until an old girl friend returned and told him their son was a prisoner in Iraq, thrusting him into a world of intrigue and danger. Can he trust the beautiful Bella when she tells him her son Cade really is his child? Or is she sending him on a chase that more than likely will get him killed?

Do you know what the heart of that story is? Sure. The relationship between him and Bella. That relationship and his mistrust of his former girlfriend will drive that thriller as they try to find “his” son. They will have dangerous adventures. There will be suspense and scary parts. All the while he’ll be with a woman he isn’t sure he trusts. And that might get him killed.

Knowing that BEFORE you write the book, you will also know how to tell the story. How to focus it. How to make it even more compelling and dramatic. All by sticking with the tone and premise you set forth in that paragraph.

So you need to think through your story. What story are you telling? Whose story are you telling? What’s the heart? What makes it special, unique…What would YOU put on your book’s back cover blurb?

What would make a READER pick up your book? Hum...interesting. After all, that's what a back cover blurb is supposed to do...entice a reader into buying!

That was a made up example. Let’s take a look at a back cover from a real book and see if you can tell how knowing this “back cover” information while you’re writing could keep you on track.

Lori Handeland’s MARKED BY THE MOON. (I don’t know Lori, by the way…but I loved this book!)

“Tough as nails, Alexandra Trevalyn does what most people can’t: She kills werewolves. Once part of an elite group of hunters, she’s going rogue these days, though no less determined to rid the world of the bloodthirsty beasts…once and for all. That’s why Alex had no choice but to kill Julian Barlow’s wife – and will have to pay the price. Julian’s brand of vengeance is downright devious, and now he’s turned Alex into a member or his pack. It’s only a matter of time before she falls under his spell. With the wild freedom of the wolf in her veins, Alex can’t deny that Julian wakes her most primal passions…and draws her that much closer to the moon’s call, where evil lies in wait.”

You don’t know the whole story from the back cover blurb, but you get the richest, most compelling, most important parts of the story in that blurb. As a writer, you would know how to focus that story – first on her killing Julian’s wife, then on Julian’s revenge which puts her smack dab in Werewolf World – and her troubled adjustment to becoming one of the beasts she used to hunt – even as her captor awakens her passions.

Which is why, if you choose the back-cover-blurb type of story summary, you will get a very good handle on the most dramatic, most compelling, most important parts of your story before you write it! Simply think: What will draw readers to this story, and write that blurb. (And then write THAT story!)

Just like the core story question, a well written back-cover-blurb summary can almost become a blueprint of sorts…

First hunting werewolves,

Then killing wife,

Then being hunted herself,

Then being turned,

then adjusting to werewolf life, as she falls in love with her captor –

We see five very distinct segments of the book. Five turning points.

But even if your blurb isn’t so good that you can pull out your turning points…it will keep you on track by always reminding you of the most important parts of your story.

And that's what you want. You want to focus on the most compelling, most interesting way to tell the story. The way that will draw in readers and leave them spellbound.

Happy Monday!


P. S. April 2012 I will be doing my workshop LET CONFLICT TELL YOUR STORY FOR YOU for the STAR chapter. Go to:

There's still time to register!