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