Monday, July 29, 2013


I'm one of those people who took her laptop to Nationals and tried to do revisions on a manuscript. Not even big revisions, more like ambitious tweaks.

When I came back from Nationals and read what I'd done, my nose wrinkled. Not that my efforts stunk...but, yeah, they did.

Time management lovers (myself included) can tell you a million ways to squeeze in another ten minutes of writing every day. Or we'll show you how to carve out blocks of time so you can write five pages, one page at a time, in between running your kids to soccer practice and dance class. We tell you to keep a notebook (small one) in your purse or pocket so that every time good ideas come to you, you can jot them down. I even recommend doing lists of twenty on the run, over the course of days, so that your bouncing brain can draw on multiple inspirations at church, the supermarket, a park, or people you find at those places...

But the truth is, there are times when you really need to focus. I can't proofread quickly. I like to weigh every word. But you can't weigh every word when you have a cat on your lap, supper simmering and your smart phone pinging away with new Facebook messages.

When drafting, I can write a page and then do dishes. Write another page and vacuum the living room. Write another page and feed the cat. But when I revise, or proofread, or even read for continuity and consistency as I'm writing, I need a quiet room. I focus. I sink into my book. I [sometimes] pretend to be one of the characters and experience the book from his or her point of view.

I give my book all of myself, my attention, my focus, my dedication, because when a reader opens my book I want HER (or him) to give it all of her attention.

So think about that this week. When a reader opens your book, she slides into your story. She focuses on your characters. She falls into your world. If you haven't submerged yourself into the book before her, looking for inconsistencies or things that might jar a reader...she will find the things you missed.


Happy Monday

susan meier

Monday, July 22, 2013

Just home from Nationals ...

I was in Atlanta last week, and I’m dog tired this morning, so I thought I’d keep going with a blog post that’s easy for me to write…though maybe not so easy for you to read -- grammar errors. :)

I talked last week about misused gerunds being my most hated grammar error. But really, I have a few! LOL Most of them I’ve found in published books.

So get ready to wince…Oh, and know that every once in a while I forget some of these too. You are not alone! LOL These mistakes slip through for all of us. It’s good to be on the lookout for them.

Did you know that "couldn't help but think" is actually a double negative? The correct usage is couldn't help thinking.

Or how about "I could care less what you think"? That's just wrong. It implies that it’s possible to care less. What you really mean is I COULDN'T care less. Which means nothing is lower on your scale of thinking.

Have you ever seen...Fatter than me? Thinner than me? Happier than me? Also wrong. My mother always taught me to finish the sentence...He's fatter than I [am]. She's thinner than I [am].

Confused about the objective and subjective case of pronouns in sentences? They are an easy fix. If a pronoun follows a preposition [after, between, on, for, to about...there are only about 20 of them. You don’t need to memorize them. All you have to do is be able to recognize them.] then it's probably the object of a preposition and should be objective case.

i.e. To me ...after me...for me...

If there's more than one person...It isn't between you and I. (Doesn't that sound like fingernails on a chalkboard?) It should be between you and me. For you and me. For my husband and me. If this usage stumps you, take out the second person...and it's easy to see the answer. For my husband and I...becomes ...for I! Really? Do you ever say for I? Nope. You say for me.  So remember to use the objective case of a pronoun after a preposition.

Less and fewer. Less is used when you can’t count the objects.

You have less sugar. I use less flour in my cookies than my sister.  

Fewer is used when you can count the items. Fewer cars drove by my house today. I packed fewer shoes. He has fewer freckles than she. (Note the she! Finish the sentence…Fewer freckles than she has.)

The biggest pet peeves of one of my friends…something that jumps out at me now that she's mentioned it…is the use of the word that for who.

That is used for things. Who is used for people.

The bag that broke held my sugar. The woman who helped me clean the mess was pretty.

Now, let’s be honest here. I KNOW why you use that when you should use who. You don’t know which form of who to use! LOL "Is it who? Is it whom? Ah, hell, I’ll just use that!" (And be wrong…and annoy the snot out of my friend!)

The car that drove by was green.

The woman who danced last night was my neighbor.

Not the woman that danced. The woman who danced.

How did I know to use who not whom? Who is the subject of the phrase who danced last night.

Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls. (Remember that line?) In that sentence whom is the object of the preposition for.

Prepositions again. Learn those little buggers and you will save yourself a lot of grief.

Okay. That’s it for me today.

I promise next week we will discuss something that will make you happy.

Happy Monday…And the talented Sarah Morgan won my category for the Rita. Hard to be unhappy though when I had such a great time at the conference!

susan meier

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ah, the poor misused gerund...

Every once in a while I get a bug up my butt about grammar. Why? Because romance novels are dissed all the time, and I firmly believe one of the biggest reason is that “we” (authors and editors) let grammar errors slip through our manuscripts.  

Lots of our readers are educated, and when we make slips like the ones I’m about to discuss, they grind their teeth. Though they like our stories, the errors that creep through the cracks make them think we’re creative, but not very bright…and that’s the part that bites my butt. I know most of us ARE bright.

So let’s talk about misuse of gerunds, the mistake (I think) that makes our readers grind their teeth the most.

Such as:

Eating her breakfast, she combed her hair. Really? She can’t do those two things simultaneously -- unless she doesn’t care about getting hair in her cereal. Because that’s what readers see, someone eating her breakfast and combing her hair simultaneously…because that’s one of the purposes of the gerund. To show you two things happening simultaneously.

You CAN say:

Chasing her dog, she tripped over the uneven pavement.

Caressing her hair, he kissed her.

Worse, though, (at least to me) is the wrong subject of a sentence that has a gerund phase as a modifier.

Running down the stairs, her cell phone rang.

The cell phone is the subject of the sentence. The gerund phase modifies the subject. So is your heroine’s cell phone running down the stairs?

I think readers can sort of chuckle at that one and move on…It’s the ones in love scenes that make them laugh at us.

Caressing her hair, his chest brushed her breasts.

Wince. Can his chest caress her hair?

Or how about…

Kissing her, his thigh slid along her thigh.

Can his thigh kiss her? While it’s sliding along her thigh? That’s quite a feat!

** These aren’t real examples that I’ve found by the way. I made these up. But, seriously, the ones I’ve found were worse.  

So please…watch your gerunds. I know you’re trying to switch up sentence structure so that your paragraphs and scenes aren’t repetitive and flat. Gerunds are a great way to do that. Just use them correctly and you’ll accomplish both goals. Your sentence styles can be mixed up and your paragraphs won’t fall flat.

Happy Monday! I’m about to finish packing for RWA Nationals. Wish me luck in the Rita’s with THE TYCOON’S SECRET DAUGHTER and the National Readers' Choice Awards with NANNY FOR THE MILLIONAIRE'S TWINS.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Tweaks -- Understanding Your Editor's Revision Letter

I turned a book into my editor at the end of June and last week I got the "letter" telling me what they wanted to be fixed.

Now... The letter was four pages long so when I saw it, I panicked and was sure they wanted the book to be totally rewritten. Not so, she told me ten minutes later when she called to chat abut what she wanted to see. All they wanted was "beefing" up of existing emotion.


When you hear a story like this, from an author who's written/published 54 books, it probably makes your blood run cold. If a 50+ book author could totally misread a revision/tweak letter...what about the rest of us?

Well, rest easy. Here are Susan Meier's guidelines for reading a revision/tweak letter. (Which she should have followed herself last Tuesday.)

1. Don't panic. Seriously. Don't print the bugger out and see four pages and think, "Holy Shasta soda. That's a lotta fixes!"
2. Actually read the letter.
3. Read it in bites. Had my editor not immediately called me, I would have read the first page the day I got the email, pages 2 and 3 the next day and page four the day after that. Yeah, that uses a lot of your revision time. But so does stomping around the house or hyperventilating. LOL And taken in bites anything looks more realistic/manageable.
4. Get clarification. If you read it and it makes you hyperventilate to think of all the the editor. I've been with Harlequin long enough now (and they are accustomed to my odd sense of humor) so I can call and say, "Holy you want the whole book rewritten?" But even if you're a newbie, they are happy to discuss what they want. Editors ALWAYS have the best interests of the book at heart. Go into the discussion knowing they want your book to be the best it can be and things will go a lot smoother.
5. Follow up your clarification with an email. i.e. ... "It was nice to talk to you on Tuesday. So glad you only want the emotion beefed up and not a total rewrite. LOL The way I understand it, you simply want me to highlight Tucker's background, strengthening his motivation, and Olivia's responses to Tucker to be more in line with her background."

After that, print out a copy of your manuscript. If you don't do a storyboard (as I do where I write the current book scenes in blue ink and the additional scenes or scene changes in red ink) then you can write directly on your manuscript...and then read it through with your changes before you actually input them into your document. BTW, SAVE the document as it was when you sent it to your editor and save the new version as NEW VERSION or REVISIONS 7/2/13.

Revisions/tweaks don't have to be a reason to drink three margaritas (though...who really needs a reason for a margarita on a hot day?). Revisions can be a simple, manageable process as long as you take your time and remember the editor ALWAYS has the best interest of your book in mind.

Happy Monday

susan meier

Monday, July 1, 2013

Emotional Arc

This week's question from my class is from Sia who wanted to know about emotional arcs.

When anyone mentions emotional arcs I usually wince a bit because I believe no two emotional arcs are the same. Which means I also believe there's no set structure for an emotional arc. Some people fall in love more quickly than others. Some people take until the end of the book to realize they are in love.

But I have seen in both my reading and writing that a lot of characters follow the same path when they begin to soften to the hero (or heroine).

For instance, the heroine has a conflict that usually involves an incorrect core belief. i.e. I can't love you because I don't trust men.

Then the hero does something that makes her aware that this man may actually be trustworthy.

That does not make her immediately fall in love. :)

That just makes the heroine take a closer look and maybe be more open minded which opens the door for that incorrect core belief to be challenged, explored and changed.

ie. Ultimately, the heroine might say... I might not be able to trust ALL men, but this man is trustworthy.

Then he blows it. LOL He does something to make the heroine believe she was wrong to change her belief and she runs back to the belief that she had had the beginning of the book...I can't love you because I can't trust men.

But because she's experimented with the changed belief, it no longer feels comfortable for her to go back to that old belief. Not in any corner of her life. Maybe she works with a man whom she realizes she's been unjustly unkind to.

And the hero does something (note the action here) to prove to her that he is trustworthy and that whatever happened to spur the black moment either 1) was a mistake 2) happened for a good reason or 3) is something she's got to get over...rise above...learn to deal with...

And voila the new belief sticks.

But none of the above is absolute. Books are supposed to be different. All characters take different journeys.

But that's my way of dealing with the arc of change. :) Characters start off believing something. That belief is challenged and tested until it's changed. A new belief is explored. Until the hero blows it. LOL Then the heroine run back to the old belief...which no longer works...then she is forced to really change that belief. Which makes it possible for the heroine and hero to fall in love and stay in love.

In a single title romance, the belief would spill over into other areas of the main characters' lives, not just the romance.

But the point is...Characters begin the book with certain beliefs and goals. The action of the book causes them to see they might not be correct and to slowly adjust that belief until they end up at the end of the book happy, whole people. :)

Happy Monday