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! :)