Monday, October 28, 2013

Tricks and Tips

I went to a webinar this week where the W plot was explained. I'd seen this before, of course, but the way this presenter explained it, it suddenly clicked with me. Choirs of angels sang. My new book didn't merely make sense; the storyboard virtually wrote itself.


Had you asked me two weeks ago what I thought of the W plot, I probably would have hemmed and hawed and said I don't use it. Today, I could gold plate it and send it to all my friends as a Christmas gift.

How does this happen? That one day a tool seems ineffective or not for you, and the next it's your greatest gift from God?

Sometimes, we're not ready for a trick or a tip when it's explained or taught in a workshop. I know. I know...after 50+ books I should have been ready years ago...but I wasn't.

Or maybe it's the teacher.

This particular teacher, Liz Pelletier from Entangled Publishing, was very knowledgeable and very casual about the W. It was like they were old friends or lovers. She knew this technique. That came through in her teaching.

Anyway... My point in this post is to be open minded. You never know when somebody's trick is going to click for you.

But my second point is that you -- yourself -- should begin making a list of tricks and tips. Every time you begin a new book, you shouldn't reinvent the wheel. You need a synopsis. You may need character studies. (I personally get to know my characters in the first three chapters...not a technique I recommend (LOL) since I tend to rewrite those three chapters five different ways until I find the characters I really like.)

You may do a storyboard or an outline. (I can't work without them.) You may have character lists, research forms...whatever. These things aren't just ways of accumulating the information you need for your story. They are also triggers for your brain. I think I use a different part of my brain when I come up with a story and another part when I'm bringing scenes to life. So stimulation is good. :)

I, personally, have also created some forms and techniques. Like the could, might, must and should list and the trusty list of four (five if I feel like explaining REAL subplots which I usually don't). One paragraph story summaries help me focus my story. I have four different types that give me four different versions of the story so I can choose the one that works best...before I storyboard. I work hard to figure out my stories because it saves time and revisions.

And who doesn't want to save time...or lessen revisions? If you want a career as a novelist, especially a romance novelist where the more books you can produce per year the better, figuring out your process is a time saver. It helps you develop routine and order, habits -- if you will -- that allow you to consistently produce.

So keep trying new tips and tools and start taking a look at your own process. Keep notes or a binder with your tools/forms in it. And go back to that every time you start a book. Form a habit that will serve to jumpstart your brain and also get you working in the right direction right from day one of a new book.

Happy Reading

susan meier

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Back in the Saddle

Last Wednesday, I turned in a book. Thursday I drove to New Jersey (5 hours) for the NJ RWA chapter conference. I ate too much. I drank too much. And, oddly, I may have learned too much. Damned social media. I swear potential Facebook posts are leaking out my ears. Anyway, this morning, when I got up, none of that mattered. I have a book due December 1. I'd done a proposal (with three chapters) so I kinda have a jump on things. There was one bit of the story the editors didn't like (read: desperately hated) so I'll be lobbing that off. But otherwise, I have a start. Except... Now that I've been to Madeline Hunter's workshop on conflict, I think I'll hold my idea up against her concepts of what makes a strong conflict. And maybe I'll give some thought to Eloisa James's idea of starting a book at the black moment...Because, well, honestly, the most dramatic, most interesting, most desperate stuff happens after the black just think how intense your story would be if you formulated (or in this case reformulated) the beginning to be an 'all is lost moment' and went from there? Hum. Maybe I can't forget about that conference after all? Except I do not think I'll find somewhere to use Stephanie Dray/Draven's Egyptian fun facts. Anyway, my point -- I always have one -- is that you can learn everything there is to learn at a conference (or workshop or online workshop) but if it doesn't pop into your head when you need it, it's worthless. So when you get done with a workshop, or return from a conference, review your notes. Decide to use (or at least experiment with) the information you received. And if you haven't been to a conference or workshop recently, get a tape. Get NJRWA's tapes. Get the tapes from Nationals. Or analyze the book you're reading or the last three books you read. It doesn't matter if a book is good or bad, you can learn something. Always be learning! Always be growing! Because that's the only way you (and your work) will get better. And it's only by getting better that you achieve your goals. ___ BTW, I'd love to hear what YOU'D like to read about in this blog. Comment with a suggestion for a Monday Morning Writer's Blog and be entered to win a copy of SINGLE DAD'S CHRISTMAS MIRACLE. Happy Reading, susan

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Books that get noticed

A few weeks ago, I was asked to write a post for Romance University. I decided to write a little ditty about what makes a book great. It was a good, solid post. :) But I think I missed something.

How do I know this? I had a conversation with a PR person about what Shirley Jump, Jackie Braun, Barbara Wallace and I would be doing to promote our anthology, THE BILLIONAIRE'S MATCHMAKER -- which is releasing today through Entangled Publishing! Yay! Since I don't have the attention of a PR person very often, I asked if any of this stuff, blogging, branding, giveaways, and Facebook events would actually help to sell books and she said, "I don't know."

Honesty. Gotta love it.

We then got into a discussion about why one book catches fire and another doesn't and she basically said no one knows why. But some books just take off. We discussed "trope" titles. We talked about author recognition. But in the end, we were no further ahead than when we first spoke. There is no definitive "thing" you can do to get your book noticed.

Of course, that bugged me. Not only to I love to analyze, but also I believe there is always a reason for EVERYTHING. LOL

So I noodled it around a bit but came to no conclusions. Then one night, as we were watching TV, something on the show reminded me of Sandra Brown. Yee Gawds. I remember the first time I read her. I immediately called six friends and said, "Have you read this book? This author? You have to."

Same with Nora Roberts. Same with Gina Showalter. Same with my friends Shirley Jump and Deb Mullins. Same with Lori Handeland. Jennifer Probst. Jill Shalvis. Kristen Higgins. And a few others whose names escape me now.

I've done some jumping off my chair and reaching for the phone to insist my friends read certain books. LOL I was familiar with the concept. :) I'd seen great books. I'd word-of-mouthed great authors. All I had to do was think about why I'd called. What was it about those books that made me HAVE TO promote them? LOL

The answer is kind of obvious.

If, when you start writing a book, you would imagine some woman in Iowa (or Pennsylvania or Texas or Alaska) reading it, her heart beating a little faster, and her entire person engaged in your story, and then imagine her jumping off her chair and calling three friends, saying, "Have you read this author? You have to." you wouldn't be able to turn in a second-rate story with schleppy characters and so-so writing. (Not that you do. LOL. I'm just sayin'.)

If you want someone to jump off her chair and call the neighbor and tell her she's bringing your book to her house immediately and then watching her read have to write something worthy of that kind of reaction. Something magnificent.

Over the past few years, the editors at Harlequin have been pushing me to make my stories meatier, my conflicts gut-wrenching. My own personal study has been geared toward scenes that drawn in readers and writing that is so good it appears effortless. (Yes, effortless writing is hard work.)

So once I made the connection that the authors I promoted through word of mouth wrote better, wrote stories that held us spellbound, I realized why the eds were pushing me toward a bigger version of what I had been doing for the past few decades.

Their job is to get a book out of you that sells. But to really sell, you need to write something that forces Matilda off her chair, running for her phone to call her friend Bayberry and tell her she has to read your book.

So look at your current WIP. Would it inspire anyone to leap off her chair and call a friend? I don't care if it's a category romance or a contemporary mainstream; you can work within the confines of your genre, subgenre or story type and find a way to make your book fantastic. If you're the kind of person who comes up with great stories but can't quite make them need to work on your writing. Something about your scenes (which includes pacing and release of information) or your words (description, dialogue, POV) is off. If you're great with scenes and words, dialogue, POV, action...then maybe your stories (the combination of characters and goals, motivations, and conflicts) don't quite hit the mark.

If you're not making readers leap off their seats in excitement to share your book -- your name -- then you have some work to do.

Note, please, that I'm talking to myself here too. I don't think anybody's ever leaped off a chair for me. Though I did get a review on THE SINGLE DAD'S CHRISTMAS MIRACLE that said, You have to read this book. :)

So maybe I'm getting closer. LOL

Happy Reading

susan meier

Monday, October 7, 2013

Do I really think I'm going to grow?

A few months ago, I bought a book by John Maxwell called the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. I was happily reading it in bed one night  and it dawned on me...I'm sixty. Do I really think I'm going to grow? Do I even want to grow? Am I too old to grow? How to I want to grow?

And, please, Lord, don't let it be size-wise! LOL

Though I'm a tad (cough, cough) older than most of you, I think those are actually some good questions all of us should be asking ourselves about our careers.

Do I want to grow?

How do I want to grow?

Where do I want to be next year, five years from now, ten years from now...twenty?

Lots of us set goals or make plans or dream dreams about accepting a Rita, or being an NYT bestseller, or even just snagging a publisher or agent...but we don't do anything different or special to make those dreams come true.

What's the saying...if you keep doing what you've always been doing, you'll get what you've always gotten.

So wouldn't it make sense, then, that if you want to be an NYT bestseller...that you should write something different, or write in a different way (perhaps better?), or spend more time writing or shake up your schedule and write before work instead of after... or something? Anything?

Yet most of us don't do anything different. We dream the dreams. We write out the goals but we forget that to get something different, a new result, a BETTER result, we have to do something different, something new, something better.

Lots of times that's learning. Sometimes, it's better time management. Or maybe even just focus. We must focus our energy on that goal or dream or vision.

But no matter which it, time or focus...we have to do something different.

So, today, think about those questions.

Do you want to grow? If so, how? Who do you want to be? What do you want to accomplish?

And what do you have to change to be that person, accomplish that goal?

Happy Reading

susan meier

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Single Dad's Christmas Miracle by Susan Meier

Single Dad's Christmas Miracle

by Susan Meier

Giveaway ends October 07, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win